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Gm Food Labeling

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1.1 Introduction

On July 2, 2003, official agreements were finally made by the European Parliament with regards to new regulations on genetically modified food(GM). Consumer organizations and green groups are content with these results, as the voices of consumers are being heard over corporate interests. The United States accounts for two-thirds of bioengineered crops produced globally. Other major suppliers include Argentina, Canada, and China. More than twenty percent of the global crop areas of soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola acres are now biotech varieties. On top of this, biotech ingredients and biotech processes are used in producing a wide selection of food and beverage products, such as meat, poultry, cheese, milk, and beer. The problem with this decision is that it would make selling in the European Union even harder than it already has been, as well as the fact that this move may widen the transatlantic gap, thus effecting trade relations between the European Union and the United States.

1.2 What exactly is a GM?

These questions and answers have been prepared by WHO in response to questions and concerns by a number of WHO Member State Governments with regard to the nature and safety of genetically modified food.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species.

1.3 History

In 1996, the United States was the first nation to export genetically modified food in Europe. It was tomato puree from California and it was voluntarily labeled as genetically engineered. The product was a big hit with consumers in Britain because it was less expensive than conventional tomato puree. That same year, however, Greenpeace, and other environmental groups had a hostile response when GM soybeans were imported into Europe. By 1997, the European Union felt it would be best if they established mandatory labeling for GM foods. Yet from the viewpoint of the U.S. government, the European mandatory labeling policy was perceived as a trade barrier, and this is how the agricultural trade dispute between the European Union and United States began, which is still going on today.

1.4 GM Foods, Mad Cow Disease and Europe’s response

In 1996, then U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman got an early glimpse of the unfolding controversy over GM foods when protesters at the World Food Summit in Rome bombarded him with grain, calling for a ban on GM crops.

Several food crises have made consumers in Europe, particularly in the UK, awfully suspicious of changes to the food supply and skeptical of government regulatory agen¬cies. Although these crises have not been caused by GM food, genetically modified foods have been bogged down with the concern about food safety.

“Mad cow disease,” also known as bovine spongiform enceph¬alopathy (BSE), which occurred in the 1990’s, is the most significant of these food crises which started in the U.K, before spreading to the rest of Europe. BSE is an infectious degenerative brain disease in cows. The effects included the crippling of the British beef market. Throughout Europe, fears about mad cow disease and pictures of thousands of sick cattle being incinerated conquered television news, particularly when BSE was discovered in other European countries.

In 1996, some governmental authorities, such as those in Britain, robustly approved agricultural biotechnology when foods derived from GM crops were beginning to be introduced to the European market. The European press gave coverage to environmental and consumer groups and scientific critics who warned about unknown food safety and environmental risks. The concerns quickly caught the attention of suspicious European consumers. In a public opinion survey, the two institutions most likely to be trusted to “tell the truth” about biotechnology, after medical doc¬tors (54%), are consumer organizations (49%) and environmental organizations (46%).

1.4.1 EU Opinion

The historical and cultural context in which Europeans view food also helps to explain the concern about food safety and a distrust of food-safety regulators. Historically, Europeans seem to have a deeper cultural connection to their food than do Americans, for example. “The French

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