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Running head: GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS

Brittany Garcia HSCI 455 Spring 2013 Public Health & Environmental Health Consumer Issues: Genetically Modified Foods Current Issue With the world population estimated at over 7 billion people and continuing to rise, a major public health concern has been how to provide food for this vast of a population. A proposed solution to this problem has been recently rooted in the use of GM foods or GMOs (genetically-modified organisms). This term refers to crops that have been genetically altered to present beneficial characteristics, such as fortification with more vitamins and minerals or inserting a gene that promotes production of bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), that acts as the crops natural pesticide. While supporters of the use of GMOs promise quicker production of food with resistance to drought, their use remains largely controversial throughout the world due to their potential negative global impact as well as adverse health effects. One threat that they pose is a dramatic alteration in the biodiversity of the environment seen when Bt toxins unintentionally harm the wrong insects or animals. This may also cause insects to develop resistance to pesticides or for plants to create super weeds--making them hard to kill--through crossbreeding. Crossbreeding can also result in our inability to distinguish what foods contain GMOs by defiling natural, unmodified foods. The issue of crossbreeding has brought about an even greater problem between major corporations and small farmers. Physicist and environmental activist, Vandana Shiva, has lead the movement against the agricultural

Running head: GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS

biotechnological giantthe Monsanto Corporation. The Monsanto Corporation is one of the largest seed companies worldwide and it has created the privatization of seed through patents. Their hold on a patent for a product produced by nature is the major focus of scrutiny and debate, while Monsanto states justification through their claim to invention stating that the seed is no longer a seed since it has been biologically engineered. By having a patent on seed, Monsanto has exclusive rights to decide who uses their seed, thus, creating monopolization of the agricultural and food markets. It is the Monsanto conflict that has lead me to question the effects of the presence of GMOs on the market and shed light on the changes that should be enacted to ensure protection of the consumer and the publics health. Though immediate negative effects of GMOs may not appear to be threatening on the surface, I believe close analysis of their projected impact will show detrimental consequences across all facets of life, particularly affecting the health and economy of all countries. Existing Laws The European Union (EU) began providing regulations to have foods containing GMOs labeled since the early 1990slong before GMOs were even present on the market. Early policy, such as the Novel Foods Regulation, was meant to promote equal competition and proper use of GMOs, rather than restricting their use. Today, the EU uses the General Labeling Directive. With this policy, the GM food must first have been deemed safe, and should it later be determined to cause negative effects, it may then be traced and removed from the market. There are two major conditions under which a GM food must be labeled. One is if the food is distributed to large food supply chains.