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A Vote For The GMO

Just like any food, genetically modified or other novel foods are complex mixtures of thousands of different substances in varying proportions. With trusted and conventional foods that have been eaten for generations there is little concern. They are considered safe based on experience, not necessarily based on scientific proof. GM food is vitally important to ensure global food security in the face of changing climate. Ironically, virtually all our food crops have been genetically modified in some ways as humans have been manipulating the genes of crops for millennia by selective breeding. Breeders hand-pollinate blossoms in hope that they would give a desired result.

The truth is that GMOs have been studied intensively to understand that they work is a lot more prosaic than the hype contends and the technique does differ from the traditional plant breeding. In order to minimize the possibility of harmful and unforeseen effects, genetically modified plants and derived foods are subjected to thorough analyses. Nutritional value and vitamin content are measured along with levels of toxins that occur naturally in some foods. An increase in toxin content to unsafe levels is not permissible. If any other measurements are different from the plant’s conventional counterpart, it would suggest that problematic and unintended effects could exist. The health consequences of such differences would need to be thoroughly investigated. 

The worldwide scientific consensus on the safety of genetic engineering is as solid as that which underpins human-caused global warming. Yet this inconvenient truth on GMOs that they’re as safe as conventionally cultivated food is ignored when ideological interests are threatened.  The European Commission’s anti-GM policies for instance prohibit the growing GMO-crops within all or part of their territories. A total of 19 EU countries initially decided to ban the cultivation of GMOs, even if they are already authorized to be grown within the union.

These countries include; Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia. The Continent seemingly is shutting up shops for an entire field of human scientific and technological endeavor. 

This is analogous to America’s declaring an automobile boycott in 1910, or Europe’s prohibiting the printing press in the 15th century. The historic irony is that Europe once led in biotechnology. In 1983, Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell at the University of Ghent in Belgium introduced the world to modern plant genetic engineering. Today, however, no rational young scientist interested in molecular techniques of crop breeding would choose a base in Continental Europe. After all, no one would spend years developing genetically modified crops in the knowledge that they will most likely be outlawed by government fiat.

Fortunately, indications are that this phobia and its chilling effect on biotech science in Europe will end dramatically. Lately, despite a majority of the European Union officially saying “NO” to growing genetically modified crops (GMOs) within their territories, the latest move from the European Parliament’s environment committee (Environment MEP) will likely leave the door open for the controversial products to continue entering the EU through imports.

 According to Reuters, “more than 60 GM crops are approved for import into the bloc, although you won’t see a lot of GMO-food products in the EU”. A substantial portion of the EU’s animal feed are genetically modified crops from North and South America. “Around 30 million tons of grain are imported per year from third countries, including 13 million tons of soybeans, 22 million tons of soymeal, 2.5 million tons of maize, 2 million tons of oilseed rape and 0.1 million tons of cotton,” says EuropaBio. 

 A 2011 survey estimated that European farmers’ failure to adopt GM crops had resulted in lost revenue of between 500 million and one billion euros per year. A former British environment minister complained that Europe was becoming a “museum of world farming.” Although, GMO is not the only answer to global food security and it is not essential but it is certainly one good thing in our arsenal. 

GMOs must receive authorisation before they enter the market (Bild vergrößern). This applies to GMOs used in food and feed and to seeds for GM crops. The authorisation process is carried out by the EU, and the resulting decision applies to all EU member states. According to laws that apply to all EU member states, a GM food can only be allowed onto the market if it can be documented using scientific data that it is just as safe and healthy as a comparable conventional product. The essential foundations of the EU’s policies are tight safety standards and freedom of choice for consumers and farmers. For novel or genetically modified foods, proving safety is a legal obligation. Foods made from GMOs must be considered safe; otherwise they wouldn’t have received authorisation.

Following a comprehensive decision making process, the EU and the Member States are of the opinion that using genetic engineering in agriculture and food production is permissible. Additional applications are still awaiting decisions. On September 16, 2016, the European commission authorised GMOs for food and feed use. The commission authorised the placing in the market of products containing, consisting of or produced from GM maize and many more subsequent authorisations.

In Western Australia also, new act lifts Moratorium on GM crop planting. The parliament has repealed the GM crops Free Areas Act 2003 which imposed a moratorium on the commercial cultivation of GM crops in the country. The repeal of this act gives growers certainty that not only will they be able to use the existing GM technologies, but they will also have access to future advancements in plant biotechnology that could improve their productivity and sustainability.

With the increasing number of genetically modified (GM) events, traits, and crops that are developed to benefit the global population, approval of these technologies for food, feed, cultivation and import in each country may vary depending on needs, demand and trade interest.

Many genetically modified plants have previously been approved for use in food and feed in various countries of the world particularly Africa. There are many other approvals like number of biotech crops and events and approval for cultivation per trait category. 

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