Sunday, May 11, 2014

I too believe GM foods are safe

I quote from an article in The Economist:
Repeated studies have found no threat to human health from GM ingredients, which are found in up to four-fifths of processed food in American shops; nor have any ill effects appeared during the 20 years in which Americans have been eating the stuff. 
I am allergic to peas, lentils and faba beans. These are all foods that are widely considered to be safe. In fact a lot of people are allergic to one or another of these foods. Favism, a specific form of allergy to faba beans, can be quite serious. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, vomiting, fever, jaundice, eosinophilia, and often diarrhea.

Large numbers of people are allergic to one food or another, and each year millions of Americans have allergic reactions to foods. Eight foods account for 90% of allergies: Peaanuts. Tree nuts, Milk, Eggs, Wheat, Soy, Fish and Shellfish. 150 to 200 people die per year in the United States from allergic reactions, most as a result of peanut allergy.

A food that had been genetically modified to produce a protein with this kind of allergenic action would not be approved, and if somehow it slipped through the rigorous testing and review process it would no doubt be quickly removed from use when allergic reactions first appeared.

Remember, all the domesticated food we eat differs from its wild ancestors because of generations of selection. For the vast majority of vegetables, varieties have been crossed again and again, sometimes with wild related species. In each cross, there will be half of the genes from one ancestor and half from the other -- thousands of genes entering into the genome of the new variety as compared with either of its parent varieties.

Of course, our ancestors who domesticated and improved the crops tried to avoid varieties that made people sick, but they did not understand genetics until the last century, and did not have the technology to be selective in their plant breeding.

In modern genetic engineering of plants, typically breeders will isolate a single gene that produces a desired property in a crop, and will introduce that gene into a widely used variety. If it works as planned, the resultant cultivar is then carefully tested and subjected to regulatory review.

The reason that breeders are increasingly using this technique is that it is so much faster than making wholesale genetic changes by cross breeding, and then doing generation after generation of breeding to weed out the undesired traits that arrive in the plants with the desired new trait.

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