Do we want to know whether or not the meat, milk and eggs we eat come from animals fed on genetically modified (GM, aka genetically engineered) feed? Here in Britain, that’s an issue with some of our major grocery outlets announcing that they won’t tell their customers either way.
GM Watch tells us about this. ‘Following announcements from M&S, Sainsbury’s, Co-Op, and Tesco that they will no longer require that the farm animals in their supply chains are fed a non-GM diet, Peter Melchett, Policy Director of the Soil Association, said:
‘ “Tesco and the Co-Op are misleading their customers by claiming that the GM feed will not be detectable in products like eggs, milk or chicken. This is not true. Several research studies have found that GM DNA in animal feed is taken up by the animal’s organs and can then be detected in the milk, meat, and fish that people eat. This has been confirmed today by the Government’s Food Standards Agency.” ‘
I’m not convinced that GM foods harm people just because they’re GM. When there’s robust evidence of human harm, I’ll tell you and I’ll be grateful if you tell me. But for now, the science hasn’t yet given us any health reason to avoid GM foods.
Nevertheless, lots of people want to avoid eating GM. Lots of people want to avoid animal products from livestock fed on GM. Which is why there’s controversy here in Britain, now, about supermarkets and other retailers refusing to inform customers about what the animals have been fed. I’m all in favour of informative labels on groceries. On this point, I agree with Mr Melchett.
It’s a much bigger picture, though. The GM story isn’t all about human health. There’s evidence that GM crops disrupt ecosytems, eg Roundup Ready soya and the monarch butterfly, also Bt corn (maize) and soil insecticides. I’m not convinced that GM crops are a solution to hunger or malnutrition, eg Golden Rice and childhood blindness. I’m concerned about intellectual property – farmers not owning their seeds – eg the Monsanto Protection Act and ongoing legal cases. You might choose to follow my ‘genetic modification’ tag for more about each of these concerns.