The Acceptance of Genetically Modified Foods

In the United States, only limited objections have been raised to genetically modified foods, which can be more nutritious, disease-resistant, flavorful, or cheaper than natural foods. In Europe, by contrast, consumers and governments have focused on the potential dangers of genetic modification, which include unforeseen resistance to antibiotics and herbicides, the spread of dangerous allergens, and damage to livestock, public health, and the environment. Health disasters such as the mad cow outbreak have left many European consumers with a distrust of corporations and regulatory bodies and a determination to understand where their food comes from. While some genetically modified crops are allowed in Europe, the European Union has instituted strict regulatory requirements for labeling and traceability and has effectively placed a moratorium on approving new crops. These regulations have caused friction with the U.S. government by limiting the import of U.S. agricultural products, many of which are genetically modified and none of which are required to carry labeling. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that U.S. corn producers alone would be able to export $300 billion more corn if the ban were lifted.

—Paula Kepos of Agriculture, there is no evidence that any genetically modified foods now on the market pose any human health concerns or are in any way less safe than crops produced through traditional breeding. In 2002, however, the European Union updated and strengthened existing regulations and labeling laws for genetically modified foods in the European markets.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recognizes that genetic engineering has the potential to help increase productivity in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. However, the FAO urges caution to reduce the risks associated with transferring toxins from one organism to another, of creating new toxins, or of transferring allergenic compounds from one organism to another. The FAO acknowledges potential risks to the environment, including outcrossing (crossing unrelated organisms), which could lead to the evolution of more aggressive weeds, pests with increased resistance to diseases, or environmental stresses that upset the ecosystem balance.

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