Friday, July 28, 2006

should we eat food products from animals fed on genetically-modified products?

Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, a plant pathologist and senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety (CFS) in Washington, D.C., says that we should not eat genetically engineered products.

He was responding to a claim just issued by CAST (the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology) that such food is safe to eat.

Which of the two are we to believe?

For my part, I don't understand how any scientist can assert a positive claim such as "xxx is safe" though I would quite understand a negative claim such as "xxx is not hazardous as far as we can find out at present".

So, on purely logical and scientific grounds, I am inclined toward Gurian-Sherman's view.

In any case, according to Gurian-Sherman, "Because the testing is inadequate, we can't be as confident about the safety as we should be".

Gurian-Sherman added that CAST's support from the biotech industry must also "be considered in the background."

Quite right.

But does the CFS include, for example, not only meat from animals fed on genetically-modified maize but also milk from cows fed on genetically-modified maize?

It is difficult to find out.

In any case, according to the CFS website, "Currently, up to 45 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as is 85 percent of soybeans. It has been estimated that 70-75 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves--from soda to soup, crackers to condiments--contain genetically engineered ingredients."

If that is correct, pity the USA. And when in the USA, it might be better to fast than eat - though that is difficult, given the famed hospitality of Americans - unless you happen to be on an organic farm. Naturally, since there is no official or agreed description of an "organic farm" in the USA any farmer can call her/his farm "organic" (unlike, for example, Switzerland where there are official descriptions of such things).

Gurian-Sherman also says genetic research is detracting from other possible solutions such as agroecology techniques like organic farming, breeding and integrated pest management. The research is more "attractive to scientists", Gurian-Sherman says.

The success of genetically-modified crops is also overrated, he says. Since 1987, 11,000 field trials have been completed and there are only two crops which have been successful bt and herbicide resistant crops.

Gurian-Sherman does not entirely dismiss genetic modifications. "I think some of these applications could be potentially useful....(but) we're not quite humble enough in terms of the changes this may cause," he says.

The CFS website is Sphere: Related Content

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