Friday, December 18, 2009

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: GE Or GM Foods - Health Concern in Our Environment

By Sally Wilson

There are many aspects about genetically engineered foods that the public finds disturbing, particularly in the area of how they will affect our health. This has become a highly controversial subject yet it is a matter that will be affecting all of us now, as into the future.

Such a new science has had little time to test the results of laboratory manipulations of food chemistry and genetics and the poverty of any serious assurances from the scientific fraternity increases our nervousness.

Years ago, Dr. Judy Carman, senior lecturer from the Department of Health at the University of Adelaide, voiced some of her concerns. One of these was that the use of antibiotic resistant genes in plants could give rise to antibiotic resistance in humans. Also, allergic reactions to many foods are already evident and thought to be increasing in number with the introduction of GM foods into the general market. Dr. Carman also draws attention to further safety factors "Current safety testing of GE foods is minimal. Tests are done by employees or companies paid by GE companies. Test results are rarely published for scientific review.

In Australia, ANZFA is the sole body to assess these company documents. An independent review of reports published by ANZFA has concluded that tests are inadequate, that GE food have never been tested on humans and that some GE foods have not even been tested on animals."

The situation may have changed over recent years through the public becoming better informed. However we must assume that in commercial food outlets and restaurants it is likely that genetically engineered foods are now being used as a matter of course.

There have been many voices raised in protest by those who do not wish to eat GM foods, and fight for a fair situation that will allow them to avoid health problems. This is a vital issue that should be based upon freedom of personal choice. In spite of various governments and health authorities having regulated that any product must be adequately labelled should any ingredients have been manufactured or produced agriculturally by these methods in question, in practice there are further problems encountered by consumers, who are left to place their trust in the honesty of a system that is still developing.

It seems that for years we have unknowingly been eating many GE foods produced from grains, vegetables, oils and fruits that are common produce on supermarket shelves. The desire to avoid these questionable artificially engineered foods has opened up a market and some merchants now offer 'GM Free' produce. It is this that we must look to on labels.

Other than this, we must for the time being rely upon our senses and keep alert. Any food product that looks good must also satisfy our acquired sense of taste - and this is one of the natural ways to ensure the quality of our own nutrition upon which our health depends.

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