The same government agency that has failed to protect us from salmonella in peanut butter, BPA leaching into our children’s foods and beverages, melamine in formula, among other health dangers, will soon be allowing the by-products of genetically engineered animals to reach our grocery stores. In January 2009, the FDA released the “Guidance for Industry #187”, which provides regulation guidelines that pertain to genetically engineered animals containing heritable recombinant DNA constructs. Therefore, these are not even enforceable regulations on the animal agriculture industry.
One of the biggest red flags for me is that there is no requirement for the labeling of consumables produced by genetically engineered animals. The FDA has taken the same stance they did with genetically modified crops and thrown out the consumer’s right to know. The FDA claims that companies will probably label a product if it has been altered for increased health benefits, such as pigs that produce omega-3 fatty acids. The FDA seems to feel if they deem that the genetically modified animal is safe for consumption, consumers should place their trust in the FDA’s findings. Unfortunately, back in late 2008 when the FDA was open for input from consumers a mere 29,000 responded. Though, I am sure companies that produce animals that have not been genetically modified will probably begin labeling their products accordingly.
As someone who majored in animal science, I strongly feel that there is not enough scientific research about the long term effects of genetically modified organisms. The possible side effects of the mass production of genetically modified crops is just currently becoming an issue. There have been quite a few lawsuits over genetically modified crops popping up in fields of organic crops and that is just one environmental side effect.
As a mother I do not think I could knowingly feed my child food that has been unnaturally altered. Despite what biotechnology firms like to argue, when you alter an organisms genetic code it is not natural. Selective breeding alters the DNA of an animal within the confines of its parents’ genetic code, excluding genetic mutations. When I took animal breeding, I am pretty sure selective breeding did not result in pigs that produce omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in fish. Fish and pigs are not even in the same taxonomic class.
There is currently no set date for when genetically modified animal products will hit the stores. Currently the animal that will most likely reach the market first are genetically modified fish and some fish farming companies are ready to start mass production. These fish have been altered to grow faster, this has been attained by inserting genes that promote the production of growth hormone. This seems analogous to dairy producers giving their cows rBST so that they will produce more milk, but instead of an injection they have permanently altered the animal.
With the FDA, which seems to be ineffective, heading the regulation of these organism and an insufficient amount of long term studies as to the effect that genetically modified animals will have on the environment and human health, I feel it imperative to spread the word to parents so they can be informed consumers. For tips on how to avoid genetically modified food currently on the market I highly suggest reading Katy Farber’s article.
Image by: Guerilla Futures = Jason Tester on Flickr under Creative Commons license