You Are Benefiting From Biotechnology
December 6, 2000
Ask American consumers whether they support the use of biotechnology in food and agriculture and nearly 70 percent say they do. But ask them "Do you approve of genetically engineered -- or genetically modified -- foods?" and two-thirds say they do not. Even though there is no difference between the two.
But by whatever name, the techniques involved and the products that result are the only way to feed the ever-growing billions of people who inhabit the Earth.
Here are a few recent developments in the field:
- An insecticidal toxin from a bacterium has been genetically introduced into corn and cotton resulting in increased productivity and decreased use of pesticides.
- The genetic introduction of herbicide tolerance into soybeans is saving farmers about $200 million a year by reducing the application of herbicides needed to control weed growth.
- Genetically engineered pharmaceuticals are already in wide use, with more than 150 products on the market -- including insulin used by diabetics, produced from genetically modified bacteria.
- Future benefits include peanuts or shrimp lacking proteins that can cause life-threatening allergies, fruits and vegetables with longer shelf-lives, foods with fewer toxicants and antinutrients, meat and dairy products and oils that are heart-healthier.
Critics worry that biotechnology is not regulated enough -- although the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency all oversee aspects of the industry. If the most common sources of food allergens -- peanuts, shellfish, celery, nuts, milk and eggs -- had to pass through an approval process today, they would never make it to market, say experts.
Source: Jane E. Brody, "Gene Altered Foods: A Case Against Panic," New York Times, December 5, 2000.
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