The technological changes and innovations during the last 20 years have created a remarkable array of new creations. All living organisms are compromised of a substance called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which contains genes that are the blueprint for that organism. Scientists discovered that DNA was interchangeable between organisms and created new breeding methods such as crossbreeding, gene injection, and DNA modification techniques. This allowed scientists to take desirable traits from one organism and give that characteristic to another. A genetically engineered product is one that was developed by modifying DNA.
(www.aphis.usda.gov/bbep/bp/overview.html) There has been an increase in generically engineered crops over the years and they continue to rise. In 1996, 4 million acres of land worldwide were planted with these crops versus having 98 million acres with genetically engineered crops in 1999 (Frankmore, p.A-38). In 1998, 77% of the worlds genetically engineered crops were produced in the United States (Batie, 1999). Currently the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require the labeling of genetically engineered products (Kessler, 1992, p. 1747). However, legislation is now being introduced into congress to determine how these products should be dealt with. In 1998, the United States patent office received 289 applications for patent approval for new genetically engineered crops (Batie, 1999).
It is often hard to understand complex technological and scientific concepts when one does not have prior experience in the field. Genetic engineering is a division of biotechnology. It is something that one encounters in their everyday life, but at the same time its hard to understand what a genetically engineered product is, and what effects it could have on your life. While is has been well documented that the European Union is opposed to genetically engineered foods which they nicknamed Frakenfoods, the thoughts and beliefs of American consumers has not yet been examined (Batie, 1999). The main goal of the biotech community should be to take the complex topic of genetically engineered crops, and make it understandable to Americans to allow them to formulate and make educated decisions on the subject.
Due to the high complexity and scientific nature of genetic engineering, people arent aware of this topic. However, the spectrum of genetic engineering reaches beyond the realm of science, as it is part of each area of general education. For example, it affects globalization because it could have an impact on population rates, provides nutrition, affects people differently and have social and economic impacts. Biotechnology crosses the area of pluralism as it has an effect on public policies and opinions. It is part of the area of aesthetics as it could change the landscapes and food appearance. Mathematics is involved in the use of forecasting future trends and profits.
New genetically engineered products have the potential to drive a large amount of businesses out of business. For example, a genetically engineered product called BgH can increase milk production by 40% and would tend to force about 30% of all dairy farms in the US out of business once introduced into the market (Perlas, 1994, p.40).
In the case of new genetically engineered golden rice which contains high level of beta-carotene (Vitamin A) to combat blindness in malnourished Asian countries. Instead however, Asians experienced a Vitamin A toxicity which resulted in abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and deformities of the body as well as problems with the depletion of its scarce water resources by using more then the traditional amounts (www.purefoods.com). Genetically engineered products have the potential to be highly destructive creating gene mutations, superweeds, health risks, and unknown effects from lack of research and evidence on safety issues. Consumers should be aware of the foods that they are eating and possible long term effects.
Batie, S. (1999). Agricultural Biotechnology: Can it Pass the Consumer Test? Michigan State
University Department of Agricultural Economics. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on March 11, 2000: http://www.aec.msu.edu/agecon/search
In 1997, the United States Patent Office received 289 applications for patent approvals for genetically altered plants. In 1999, 65 million acres of cropland were used to produce genetically altered crops, 50 million acres of which were on United States soil. There are no statistics or studies done to determine is given the choice, whether American consumers would chose genetically engineered crops. Many European countries are against these types of crops because of moral, environmental and food safety reasons. In addition, Austria and Luxembourg have banned all biotech crops. Currently, the United States Food and Drug Administration does not require a label that identifies how a crop was developed or grown.
Bruhn, C. Biotechnology: realizing the promise through innovation and meaningful
labeling. Nutrition Today 33 (1998): 13-18
A counterpoint to Nestle’s review of biotechnology in this issue is provided. The writer contends that the information in Nestle’s review is selectively presented to paint biotechnology as an intensely controversial technology that is being forced upon the public, a picture that is not accurate. The writer agrees with Nestle concerning the promise and potential of the technology but differs significantly on consumer response, merit of biotechnology applications, role of labeling, and opportunity for consumers to choose or not choose modified products.
Mothers for Natural Law of the Natural Law Party (1996). You are Eating Genetically
Engineered Food. Is it Good for You? Do You Have a Choice? *http://www.safe-food.org*
The National Law is fighting to inform the public about genetically engineered foods and is trying to make it an issue for the 2000 political campaign since it is such a current and important issue of the times. It educates the public on what genetic engineering consists of and the dangers as well as the potential benefits of unnatural foods.
Organic Consumers Association (2000). Campaigning for Food Safety, Organic Agriculture,
and Sustainability. *http://www.purefood.org*
Purefoods hosts the website for the Organic Consumers Association. This site is dedicated to helping consumers know what is in the food that they are consuming. It contains links on genetically engineered foods, but also has a searchable news archive. This allows for searches to see what the latest and update news is for the topic at hand.
Perlas, N. (1994). Overcoming Illusions About Biotechnology. New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd.
The purpose is to explore three aspects that is faced by biotechnology and genetically engineering. They include the social aspect where the question of technology is geared towards who should the technology be geared towards and how it would affect the economic issues of such a decision. The environmental critique aspect must take into account the affect of such technologies on the environment where the scarcity of resources will affect the local and global environments. The scientific/philosophical critique aspect must also be included sine the not so obvious politics and scientific technologies affect the social and environmental factors.
Regulation of Genetically Engineered Organisms and Products (1994, July). Biotechnology
Information Series of Iowa State University. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on
March 13,2000: *http://www.aphis.usda.gov/bbep/bp/overview.html*
Explains how the USDA regulates genetically engineered food, why the EPA regulates genetically engineered plants, and the responsibilities of the FDA on GE food. This will help us better understand where the government comes to play in taking responsibility on GE food.
Shiva, V. (1995). The New Repression. Washington, D.C.
This website if useful because it has a striking argument on the effects of biotechnology on the environment and the global economy.
Smith, T. Biotechnology and Global Justice. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
This article examines what kind of affect agricultural biotechnology has on globalization. The hope of rational social and ethical perspective would result from the globalization of biotechnology. Globalization would allow for a more extension of production chains across national borders and foreign enterprises.
Stipp, D. (2000, February 21). “Is Monsantos Biotech Worth Less Than A Hill of Beans?”
Fortune, 141, 157-172.
This article talks about the ethics of biotechnology and its acceptance by consumers. It mainly focuses on the genetic engineering of soy beans and its implications on the business world and society. This article will help us understand biotechnology and its acceptance; as well as the consumers perspective of it.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2000). Welcome to the internet FDA. * http://www.fda.gov*
(2000, March 06).
The above cited webpage contains information provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The information provided by the FDA is directly related to their policies with regard to genetically engineered foods.
Supplemental Bibliography: Items used in this proposal
Frankmore, B. (2000, February 6). Genetically altered crops planting seeds for ‘revolution’.
Denver Post. A-38. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://proquest.umi.com
Kessler, D. (1992). The safety of foods developed by biotechnology Science, 256, 1747-1749.