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Roberto Garcia

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Are bio-engineered food products safe?

On one side, earth is getting over populated and there is a need to feed a growing world. New Bio-Engineering techniques give us the possibility to grow food fast and in larger amounts. But how far can this genetic enhancement of vegetables, and animals for human consumption can go, without harm for our own genetic integrity?

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  • Oct 17 2012: The answer completely depends on how you define 'safe'.

    Already, almost all the food species cannot survive without cultivation. This makes our food supply somewhat risky in the case of a global catastrophe.

    Consider this scenario. A bio-engineered plant becomes very popular and is cultivated all around the globe; billions of people come to rely on it as an important part of their diet. Then a new virus develops that takes advantage of the bio-engineered genes and wipes out this crop, spreading so quickly that it cannot be stopped. Millions of people starve.

    There is no way to guard against the above scenario. The real problem in this scenario is not the bio-engineering itself, but the fact that the plant became so popular. However, bio-engineering is a business. The goal of every bio-engineering company is to produce a product that will become very popular and have great sales.

    The more usual notion of 'safe' is whether the product directly produces harm. The only way to determine this is testing by eating. A key question for this type of testing is how long does the test run? How can you tell whether a steady diet of something will harm you if you eat it for sixty years? There is only way, and that is to test it for sixty years. Such a long test is not feasible; it would cost so much that it would make bio-engineering uneconomical. So the real testing will done by the people who buy the product after it has been deemed 'safe'.
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    Oct 18 2012: Barry pretty much says it all.

    Fear will induce you to buy it, climate change will force us to use more ingenious ways to irrigate and continue to use nitrogen based fertilizers a long with the pesticide supplied by the company that supplied the engineered seed. The urgency will force you to put aside the damage this system does to the soils and the water tables and rivers that these chemicals leech into which eventually find their way to the sea. Acid seas, dead fish.

    There are ways to grow naturally but the rotational time involved takes too much time and effort for the small farmer, automation is coming online and there are mouths to feed. The word sustainable should be chucked and "Self sustaining" should be adopted.

    We don't know the long term affects of GE foodstuffs and the reality is is that most people who want to solve the world hunger crisis will put aside their qualms and use it, like we did with the subprime market.