GeneticallyModified Foods: A Rogerian Argument
Thesubject of Genetically Modified Foods (GM foods) is one that affectspolicy makers because there is public pressure from society andcorporations to either let them continue with the production and saleof these items or to limit their sale through significantregulations. Public opinion is conditioned by the perception of harmor usefulness of genetically modified food, which is different foreach state. Ultimately, the policy that states create for theproduction of genetically modified food is based on the risk factorsof this product and public tolerance or acceptance of risk. The keyfactor in any evaluation of the desirability of GM foods should bethe nutritional and health benefits that they give to consumers, andif GM foods do not promote public health concerns. Theseconsiderations can be successfully satisfied if the two sides try tofind a mutually satisfactory solution that is inherently wise andserves the interests of everyone. Therefore, GM foods are not an evilproduct of science that will destroy nature, nor is it a triumph ofscience that will feed the entire world with ease. The truth liessomewhere in between.
Fromone perspective genetically altering foods is inherent risky because,while we are in control of the process of alteration, we are not incontrol of the potential side effects of genetic alteration. GM foodsinvolve the human interaction with genetic coding to influence theprocess of natural mutation in order to produce foods that serve aspecific purpose in the nutritional climate of the contemporaryworld. The hope from producers of GM foods is that they would beresistant to pests, diseases, and herbicides(Jones, par).This concern is derived from the desire to find a sustainable way tofeed the growing population of the planet. The process of geneticalteration of genes transfers them between species in a lab, andunder the control of a technician. However, this process can alsohave unintended consequences, such as threatening the purity ofnon-genetically modified foods that get mixed with GM food seeds.Also, and certainly most important, when the genes of plant arealtered, they are done so in a uniform way that homogenizes thegenes, or the product of the alteration(Schmidt, par).This can actually a reduce crop variety with GM food because genesthat are pest and herbicide resistant are simply recycled byagribusinesses.
Anotherargument contends that the society should choose, through legislationand lobbying, which foods it finds safe based on scientific procedureand knowledge derived from testing. The scientific viewpoint willwant to support the product of genetic research and work towards somesolution that is satisfactory for consumers and agriculturalbusiness. One of the positive aspects of GM food is that it isresistant to pesticides(Whitman par).Moreover, yields of harvests are larger and can be derived inunproductive soil, thus ensuring food security in a world with largepopulations. These aspects of GM-food appeal to the voting public aslong as there are safety measures in place to ensure public health.Also, GM food is tested by parent companies and the FDA to ensure,absolutely, that they do not cause or contribute to allergicreactions. Many of the scientific testing and trials on GM food haveprovided results to show that there are no adverse effects or healthrisks from GM food(Whitman par)however, the amount of testing performed is not conclusive. In orderfor GM food to become a stable part of the cultural landscape as faras what people eat, the public will have to be assured throughtesting and experience that the GM food is both nutritious in someway and also safe. Therefore, it depends on the will of the public,as well as their tolerance of risk, to determine how to approach theactivity of science with health and nutrition.
Thereis room for bargaining and compromise on the issue of geneticallymodified foods. The natural solution for the long-term acceptance ofGM food is for business, with government regulation, to ensure thatthe products that they produce are health for the consumer. One thisis accomplished there would be little controversy over the issue.There are however, other issues that arise in the GM food debate keyissues are: adverse effect on wildlife, difference in risks betweenGM meat and GM crops, and the unintended consequences of modifyingcrop DNA. Regulations should be close to the standard that state thatGM food must share “equivalent composition and nutritional statusto its conventional counterpart(Schmidt par).”Moreover, there should be clear guidelines established by lawmakersto ensure that the labeling of GM food is written in language that isaccessible to the average consumers and informs their decision topurchase a particular product. Consumer safety measures cancontribute to public acceptance of GM foods.
In any risk assessment procedurethere are differences in tolerance levels based on culturallyconditioned concepts and expectations. People want to avoiduncertainty as a general rule of human nature. In the GM food debate,this tendency to avoid uncertainty increases because of the possiblethreats from unknown qualities inherent in the GM foods (Wohlersp, 23).In terms of public health concerns and the creation of laws, thereare a certain number of basic “risk perceptions” that areuniversal: one that creates opportunity one that presents threatsone that has both opportunities and threats one that has neither(Wohlersp, 31).The discussion of GM foods considers both the risks and theopportunities inherent in this advance in technology and scientificcapability.
The beliefs that a person has candetermine their position on the subject of GM food(Han and Harrison p,702),and this is largely created from a cultural framework where health isregulated by law and scientific research. Information that peoplehave that is provided by science can guide their consumption behaviorand decision-making. General awareness, food labels, and confidencewith FSA rulings lead directly to a positive or negative riskassessment, which shapes attitudes, and ultimately buying intentions(Han and Harrison p,703).The happy middle ground between skeptical people and believers in GMfood is found in scientific study and the general opinions ofscientific experts. Once the scientific community has publishedenough material to suggest that the benefits of GM foods are fargreater than the risks, the public will adopt GM food as a normalproduct for consumption (Hanand Harrison p, 706).Han has shown statistical data that confirms the fact that thegeneral acceptance of GM food is based on public assessment of therisks of consumption. Moreover, this can also be reflected in thepurchases and orders of GM food by grocery stores and suppliers. Inthe end, if people want to buy GM food, they can vote with theirwallets and buy the product. If enough people are adverse to the riskof GM food, it will not survive in a competitive capitalism market.
Han, Jae-Hwan and Harrison, R.Wes. Factors influencing Urban consumers’ acceptance of geneticallymodified foods. Reviewof Agricultural Economics,Vol. 29, No. 4, 2007.
Jones, Leighton. Science,medicine, and the future: Genetically modified foods. BMJ: BritishMedical Journal, Vol.318, No. 7183, 1999. Available at,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115027/
Schmidt, Charles W. Geneticallymodified foods: Breeding uncertainty. EnvironmentalHealth Perspectives, Vol.113, No. 8, 2005. Available at,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280366/
Whitman, Deborah B. Geneticallymodified foods: Harmful or helpful? Available at,http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php
Wohlers, E. Anton. Regulatinggenetically modified food: Policy trajectories, political culture,and risk perceptions in the U.S., Canada, and EU. Politicsand the Life Sciences,Vol. 29, No. 2, 2010. Available at,http://content.ebscohost.com/pdf25_26/pdf/2010/PFC/01Sep10/63193363.pdf?EbscoContent=dGJyMNLr40SeqLc4v%2BbwOLCmr0yeprZSsqm4SrOWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGrr0qwrrRJuePfgeyx43zx1%2B6B&T=P&P=AN&S=R&D=aph&K=63193363