Genetically Modified Foods: Whose say is it?

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A variety of organic, non-GMO fruit and vegetables for sale at Barry Kaplan’s Everything Natural, a Scranton food store dedicated to providing the healthiest food available to them.

SCRANTON, Pa.- The ongoing debate over whether genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe for human consumption is growing.

From scientists to educated nutrition specialists, opinions and methodical observations have varied regarding foods that are genetically modified.

In fact, the perceptions and laws concerning GMOs even differ around the world. In more than 60 countries, including Japan, Australia and all of the European Union, there are bans and/or restrictions in place on the sale and production of

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GMOs.

In the United States, however, the debate stems from the federal legislation and regulation of GMOs. Some are concerned GMOs are treated as regular foods.

According to the Law Library of Congress (LAW), theres no federal legislation that is specific to genetically modified organisms.

“Rather, GMOs are regulated pursuant to health, safety, and environmental legislation governing conventional products,” according to LAW. “The U.S. approach to regulating GMOs is premised on the assumption that regulation should focus on the nature of the products, rather than the process in which they were produced.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) places responsibility on the producer or manufacturer to assure the safety of the food.

Public outcry has grown louder in favor of regulating the process by which products are produced. The risk assessment and decision-making concerning the technologies involved in making GMOs has neglected the public’s opinion regarding the foods they eat on a daily basis.

A study from the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics suggests that non-scientists who have unique knowledge about GMOs based on their daily acquaintance with them should have a say in the risk regulation process.

“Their knowledge of the phenomenon is different from the theoretical, laboratory based, or bureaucratic understanding of it possessed by scientific and

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government experts, respectively,” the study suggests. “Thus, this subgroup of laypersons is able to make a unique epistemic contribution in the risk regulatory process.”

Barry Kaplan, owner of Everything Natural in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, is a great example of a layperson. Kaplan, who has voiced his opinion professionally as a natural food storeowner, believes large food corporations are ignoring studies that show serious risks of GMOs.

“They’re marginalizing the scientists who have got studies proving that there are issues related to GMOs,” Kaplan said. “They’re even controlling how the research is done.”

Some, like Kaplan, believe the public and additional scientific findings need to be considered in the regulatory process of GMOs. Others, like University Professor Jessica Bachman Ph.D, trust the FDA’s regulations.

Dr. Bachman, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, believes the FDA’s policies are efficient in assuring the safety of GMOs.

“They really have to prove that these things (GMOs) are safe, that they’re not going to cause harm, they’re not allergens,” Dr. Bachman said. “They go through a regulatory process before they’re allowed to hit the shelves.”

The debate concerning GMOs exists because of inconsistent opinions, studies and scientific beliefs. Some scientists, such as Bill Nye and Dr. Thierry Vrain, have shifted their respective beliefs regarding GMOs in the past.

Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada, originally defended

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the claim that GMOs are safe. After observing scientific journals from other countries, he believes that studies show allergens and toxins in GMOs. Nye, popularly known as “the science guy,” changed his mind as well. Originally critical of the certainty of GMO safety, Nye now believes the science suggesting the safety of GMOs is efficient enough to assure food safety.

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