What’s In Your Food?

In today’s world the consumers and buyers are flooded with a wide range of supermarkets, convenience stores, and more. One can find any and all kinds of foods packaged. Apart from that one can find several pre processed, semi cooked, fully cooked dishes available. Depending on what is presented one would be required to cook fully or simply heat it up and eat.

Here’s the issue according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Initiative_522_(2012)

On these packets and packaging one can see that the ingredients that make up the contents are listed. This is important because it can help the vegans and vegetarians stay away from non – vegetarian ingredients. On a more serious note the ingredients would also be able to warn buyers on allergens present in the pack.

One is aware of the fact that plants are sprayed with pesticides. This ensures more yield and less of wastage. These pesticides are known to cause negative side effects on the people who consume. This has led to an outcry among the activists, environmentalists, health officials and the public in general. This led to trigger of research to make more resistant crops. With the help of biotechnology genetic engineering of crops is performed. This is the basis for the initiative and more.

The Initiative 522 was initiated in 2012 by the Washington state. It mainly concerns with enlisting and labeling foods that have been genetically engineered. The initiative if succeeds requires all ingredients or food to be genetically engineered. It was passed on to the 2013 general election after it received enough signatures which makes it eligible to be forwarded to the legislature. The food and ingredients would need to be enlisted clearly and conspicuously.

What seems to be the problem?

A similar ballot was submitted in California but it failed too. The initiative advocates that biotechnology is rather imprecise and is not completely reliable. This could cause side effects on the health of people who consume the genetically modified organisms. It emphasizes that the pack should declare that it contains genetically modified organisms. The consumer has the right to know what he is eating. The seeds would need to be labeled under the raw agricultural commodity category and the others under processed food. Medical food, organic food, food meant for immediate consumption are exempted.

So, what is this genetically modified organism (GMO) ? When an organism has been modified by being subjected to various techniques and the changes would not normally happen by multiplication or recombination.

Are there any findings of benefits of GMO?

Biotechnology as a field has definitely made several successful accomplishments in producing significant changes in crops. One of the key accomplishments is to develop insect resistant crops. This makes them less expensive to maintain since they do not require as much pesticides as normal crops. Corn and other crops have been developed in this kind. Variants which require less irrigation, lesser use of pesticides and other resources and inputs needed have been developed. This ensures that the overall agriculture cost reduces and increases the profit. This can lead to food prices globally reducing and of course, as a noble cause reduce hunger in the world. Another perspective is that the crops developed using biotechnology could avoid common deficiencies and ailments including blindness. This could help a long way in several developing and under developed countries.

In fact, Gates Foundation is said to be researching to develop crops that require less water, fertilizers and pesticides to yield high quality low cost crops.

The GMOs can help in developing solution for allergies like that of gluten. People who are gluten intolerant cannot take bread and other gluten containing items. The toxicity in wheat is to reduce gluten and develop special strain of wheat. Dr. Sachin Rustgi Ph.D. has noted that as much as 75% has been reduced and a result of 90-100 percent is the target.

What is done to develop such crops?

Engineering is the process of making something happen through techniques and technology. Genetic engineering is a part of biotechnology where the genes are engineered to produce desired results. The DNA from a plant that has the desired quality which may be a similar plant is inserted into the target plant. It may be in any part of the plant.

Is this similar to selective breeding? No. Selective breeding is choosing plants that have the desired qualities to breed and produced a better offspring. One cannot determine which qualities of the DNA are altered. Some may be known while others may be not. In biotechnology the desired quality is only changed.

The main change is to bring pest resistant crop. This involves including certain bacteria which makes the crop more resistant to crops and lessen the use of pesticides and herbicides. This is done without damaging the main crop. Modifications can also be done to leaves. This increases the survival rate of the plant.

On the flip side, the herbicides use can increase. Farmers would be encouraged to use in lavish amounts of herbicides to keep the weeds at bay. This could in turn affect the soil and hence cause more damage than benefit. Pro advocates specify that this is possible with all kinds of herbicides.

On the concluding lines

Those who advocate labeling put forward the basis that the buyers should make an informed decision. They should have the right to know that they are buying something that has been genetically modified. Those who are against this are stating that the labeling would not provide any useful and required information. It would simply hit on the fear factor as to stop them from buying something harmless.

This initiative would be advocating to make the people aware. But the ambiguities in its exemptions, the lack of scientific backing and sound logic cause it to pulled down and not pass till then. When there is concrete evidence and improper backing up it could be based properly and presented. This in brief is the initiative 522.

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