Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat?
Most Americans have eaten genetically modified foods without knowing it, but are they safe?
Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe? continued...
Others strongly disagree.
"When you're doing genetic engineering, you're getting into
a whole different mode of manipulating plants, and one, do we need to do it?
Two, have enough studies been done in the past to really make it viable for
commercial use?" Margaret Wittenberg tells WebMD. She is vice president of
marketing and public affairs for Whole Foods Market, a certified organic
supermarket chain that supports madatory labeling of GM foods. "There are
just a lot of question marks, and I think many people have registered the
concern that we need to have more answers before we move forward on having it
commercially available at this point in time."
One immediate health concern with eating genetically modified
foods is allergens. Opponents point to an incident involving Starlink modified
corn. In 2000, StarLink (approved by the EPA for animal feed in 1998 but not
for human consumption because of concerns it contained a protein that could
cause dangerous allergic reactions) turned up in many Kraft products, including
their Taco Bell corn shells. Some corn crops were accidentally contaminated
with the StarLink seed. Several people reported severe allergic reactions, and
major recalls resulted. In the end, the EPA said federal tests didn't conclude
that genetically modified corn causes allergies, nor did they eliminate the
possibility that it could not cause such a reaction.
"Contamination is a very real risk in terms of growing
genetically modified crops," says Lisa Archer, grassroots coordinator for
the Safer Foods-Safer Farms campaign and Kraft campaign at the nonprofit
organization Friends of the Earth -- the group that sparked the StarLink
investigation. "[Genetically modified crops] can contaminate neighboring
crops relatively easily. Once you get this stuff out into nature it's very
difficult to control where it goes, and StarLink is a great example of
Archer's group continues to press Kraft -- the leading U.S.
food supplier -- to stop using genetically modified ingredients in their
products, hoping if it does, the move will have a domino effect on other food
Labeling: The Right to Know or Not?
To label or not to label has also been a hot button with
consumer advocacy groups.
Currently, food companies aren't required by law to label foods
containing genetically modified ingredients, so it's no surprise that most
Americans don't know they've eaten them.
"I think consumers need to have info about the foods
they're consuming. ... I think that if these products are so great, then why
are there no labels? Why can people not know that [genetically modified
ingredients] are in their food?" Archer tells WebMD.
Jaffe agrees that people should have the right to know.
However, he says he thinks that genetically modified foods are safe and
labeling isn't an issue as far as that is concerned.