Monday, July 16, 2007

ACCEPTANCE OF GM FOODS & CONCERNS
United States
- Limited objections have been raised (can be more nutritious, disease-resistant, flavorful, cheaper than natural foods)
- Is the leading the world in GM foods research, use and growth
- 70% of food in the US contains ingredients with some level of genetic modification
- generally good impression on GM foods
Europe
- Consumers and governments have focused on the potential dangers of genetic modification (Unforeseen resistance to antibiotics and herbicides, The spread of dangerous allergens, and damage to livestock, public health, and the environment.)
- Health disasters such as the mad cow outbreak have left many European consumers with a distrust of corporations and regulatory bodies and a determination to understand where their food comes from.
- While some genetically modified crops are allowed in Europe, the European Union has instituted strict regulatory requirements for labeling and traceability and has effectively placed a moratorium on approving new crops.
- These regulations have caused friction with the U.S. government by limiting the import of U.S. agricultural products, many of which are genetically modified and none of which are required to carry labeling.

South America
- Widely supports the research of GM foods & even allows the use of GM foods in the nations food supplies
- Governments claim that they are acting in the best interests of their people
- Brazil & Argentina devote a large area of land for GM food research
- The people showed to have a lack of understanding on biotechnology in general & a high prevalence of religion affecting their thinking process

Africa
- Several nations persistent in blocking the research & entry of GM foods – nations are wary of the environmental risks that GM foods pose
- These countries host an ever large starving population, yet they still push away western biotech firms that promise to provide the nation with great food surpluses




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ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
- the capability of the GMO to escape and potentially introduce the engineered genes into wild populations
- the persistence of the gene after the GMO has been harvested
- the susceptibility of non-target organisms (e.g. insects which are not pests) to the gene product
- the stability of the gene
- the reduction in the spectrum of other plants including loss of biodiversity
- increased use of chemicals in agriculture
- the potentially detrimental effect on beneficial insects or a faster induction of resistant insects
- the potential generation of new plant pathogens; the potential detrimental consequences for plant biodiversity and wildlife, and a decreased use of the important practice of crop rotation in certain local situations
- the movement of herbicide resistance genes to other plants

- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recognizes that genetic engineering has the potential to help increase productivity in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.
- FAO urges caution to reduce the risks associated with transferring toxins from one organism to another, of creating new toxins, or of transferring allergenic compounds from one organism to another.
- FAO acknowledges potential risks to the environment, including outcrossing (crossing unrelated organisms), which could lead to the evolution of more aggressive weeds, pests with increased resistance to diseases, or environmental stresses that upset the ecosystem balance.



she's full (: | 9:52 PM|

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Why don't we label genetically modified food?
Craig Holdrege

Released October 18, 2002When you buy reconstituted orange juice at the supermarket, the label tells you it is "from concentrate." For this you can thank the Food and Drug Administration, with its mandate to promote "honest and fair dealing with consumers."
Part of the idea is to ensure that foods are truthfully labeled so producers cannot deceive consumers. Labels must include information about amounts, contents, additives such as vitamins and preservatives, and processing methods ("from concentrate").
So why is your bag of corn chips containing genetically modified corn silent about this fact? Because the FDA has ruled that consumers shouldn't care about the difference between genetically engineered and traditionally bred plants—this despite the remarkable amount of novel manipulation to which GM corn has been subjected.

Not everyone thinks the FDA alone should determine the status of GM food labeling. In November Oregon voters will go to the ballot box and vote on Measure 27, which would require mandatory labeling of GM food. But this is an issue all of us, not only Oregonians, should consider.
To produce GM corn, scientists begin by isolating genes from an assortment of viruses, bacteria and plants. They biochemically unite these genes to make a wholly novel construct. It contains at least five different genes from these different sources. The construct is multiplied and then applied as a coating to gold or tungsten dust, which is then shot into embryonic plants.
During this process the construct is often broken up into fragments, some of which are incorporated in the chromosomes of a few of the plants. (When the DNA enters the plant, "engineering" stops and the scientists can only establish after the fact what the plant has done with their intrusion.) Some of these plants may be altered as envisioned by the scientists and become the breeding stock for GM crops.
Most of the GM corn on the market today produces a protein toxin, Bt, which kills caterpillars, and also a protein that makes the plant resistant to an antibiotic (for testing). So every cell of every kernel of GM corn contains an array of novel genes and novel proteins. This makes it, in substance and in function, without a doubt different from any kernel of corn that has ever existed before on earth.
Why would we want to know that our orange juice was formulated by adding water to concentrate, but not want to know about radical processing that alters the food crop, adds antibiotic and insecticidal factors to our diet, and poses wholly unknown risks to the environment? The FDA's mandate to protect and deal honestly with consumers includes the obligation to regulate food labels "to ensure that they are truthful." But the truth, in the case of GM food, appears to have a low priority.
As one FDA scientist opined, "Consumers have a right to know—but not to know everything." This is a strange statement coming from a representative of "one of the nation's oldest and most respected consumer protection agencies," as the FDA describes itself. The FDA has gone to great lengths to "prove" that there is no difference between GM food and food from traditionally bred crops. And if there is no difference, there is no reason to label.
This is compelling logic, as long as you leave out most of the facts.
What has driven the FDA to treat GM foods so differently from orange juice? Dan Glickman, President Clinton's secretary of agriculture, gave perhaps the most succinct and upfront explanation while reflecting back on his time at the agency: "Regulators even viewed themselves as cheerleaders for biotechnology. It was viewed as science marching forward, and anyone who wasn't marching forward was a Luddite." In the name of authoritative "science-based" policy—which it is not—the government locked arms with the biotechnology industry to prevent at all costs the labeling of GM foods.
Not all countries have eliminated the transparency that a label can provide. In the European Union, consumer information is a right. As David Byrne, European commissioner for health and consumer protection, has stated, "Labels that cover all GM-derived products ensure that our consumers are able to choose a GM product or a non-GM product. Our consumers are demanding this. They are entitled to choice and full information."
Were the FDA taking its consumer protection mandate seriously, it would shift its commitment from the biotech industry back to informing consumers about food. And that's something we consumers should demand.


from: http://www.landinstitute.org/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/10/18/3db994e62c284



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Genetically Modified Foods.

Controversies

How are GM foods labeled?

Labeling of GM foods and food products is also a contentious issue. On the whole, agribusiness industries believe that labeling should be voluntary and influenced by the demands of the free market. If consumers show preference for labeled foods over non-labeled foods, then industry will have the incentive to regulate itself or risk alienating the customer. Consumer interest groups, on the other hand, are demanding mandatory labeling. People have the right to know what they are eating, argue the interest groups, and historically industry has proven itself to be unreliable at self-compliance with existing safety regulations. The FDA's current position on food labeling is governed by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act which is only concerned with food additives, not whole foods or food products that are considered "GRAS" - generally recognized as safe. The FDA contends that GM foods are substantially equivalent to non-GM foods, and therefore not subject to more stringent labeling. If all GM foods and food products are to be labeled, Congress must enact sweeping changes in the existing food labeling policy.

There are many questions that must be answered if labeling of GM foods becomes mandatory. First, are consumers willing to absorb the cost of such an initiative? If the food production industry is required to label GM foods, factories will need to construct two separate processing streams and monitor the production lines accordingly. Farmers must be able to keep GM crops and non-GM crops from mixing during planting, harvesting and shipping. It is almost assured that industry will pass along these additional costs to consumers in the form of higher prices.

Secondly, what are the acceptable limits of GM contamination in non-GM products? The EC has determined that 1% is an acceptable limit of cross-contamination, yet many consumer interest groups argue that only 0% is acceptable. Some companies such as Gerber baby foods42 and Frito-Lay43 have pledged to avoid use of GM foods in any of their products. But who is going to monitor these companies for compliance and what is the penalty if they fail? Once again, the FDA does not have the resources to carry out testing to ensure compliance.

What is the level of detectability of GM food cross-contamination? Scientists agree that current technology is unable to detect minute quantities of contamination, so ensuring 0% contamination using existing methodologies is not guaranteed. Yet researchers disagree on what level of contamination really is detectable, especially in highly processed food products such as vegetable oils or breakfast cereals where the vegetables used to make these products have been pooled from many different sources. A 1% threshold may already be below current levels of detectability.

Finally, who is to be responsible for educating the public about GM food labels and how costly will that education be? Food labels must be designed to clearly convey accurate information about the product in simple language that everyone can understand. This may be the greatest challenge faced be a new food labeling policy: how to educate and inform the public without damaging the public trust and causing alarm or fear of GM food products.

In January 2000, an international trade agreement for labeling GM foods was established44, 45. More than 130 countries, including the US, the world's largest producer of GM foods, signed the agreement. The policy states that exporters must be required to label all GM foods and that importing countries have the right to judge for themselves the potential risks and reject GM foods, if they so choose. This new agreement may spur the U.S. government to resolve the domestic food labeling dilemma more rapidly.




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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Advantages of HACCP

FDA is recommending the implementation of HACCP in food establishments because it is a system of preventive controls that is the most effective and efficient way to ensure that food products are safe. A HACCP system will emphasize the industry's role in continuous problem solving and prevention rather than relying solely on periodic facility inspections by regulatory agencies.

HACCP offers two additional benefits over conventional inspection techniques. First, it clearly identifies the food establishment as the final party responsible for ensuring the safety of the food it produces. HACCP requires the food establishment to analyze its preparation methods in a rational, scientific manner in order to identify critical control points and to establish critical limits and monitoring procedures. A vital aspect of the establishment's responsibility is to establish and maintain records that document adherence to the critical limits that relate to the identified critical control points, thus resulting in continuous self-inspection. Secondly, a HACCP system allows the regulatory agency to more comprehensively determine an establishment's level of compliance. A food establishment's use of HACCP requires development of a plan to prepare safe food. This plan must be shared with the regulatory agency because it must have access to CCP monitoring records and other data necessary to verify that the HACCP plan is working. Using conventional inspection techniques, an agency can only determine conditions during the time of inspection which provide a "snapshot" of conditions at the moment of the inspection. However, by adopting a HACCP approach, both current and past conditions can be determined. When regulatory agencies review HACCP records, they have, in effect, a look back through time. Therefore, the regulatory agency can better ensure that processes are under control.

Traditional inspection is relatively resource-intensive and inefficient and is reactive rather than preventive compared to the HACCP approach for ensuring food safety. Regulatory agencies are challenged to find new approaches to food safety that enable them to become more focused and efficient and to minimize costs wherever possible. Thus, the advantages of HACCP-based inspections are becoming increasingly acknowledged by the regulatory community.

Examples of the successful implementation of HACCP by food establishments may be found throughout the food industry. During the past several years, FDA and a number of state and local jurisdictions have worked with two national voluntary pilot projects for retail food stores and restaurants. These projects involved more than 20 food establishments and demonstrated that HACCP is a viable and practical option to improve food safety. FDA believes that HACCP concepts have matured to the point at which they can be formally implemented for all food products on an industry-wide basis.

taken from: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fc01-a5.html



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HACCP - its importance

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is a systematic approach in identifying, evaluating and controlling food safety hazards. Food safety hazards are biological, chemical or physical agents that are reasonably likely to cause illness or injury int he absence of their control. A HACCP system is a preventive system of hazard control rather than a reactive one. HACCP systems are designed to prevent the occurrence of potential food safety problems. This is achieved by assessing the inherent hazards attributable to a product or a process, determining the necessary steps that will control the identified hazards, and implementing active managerial control practices to ensure that the hazards are eliminated or minimized.

Essentially, HACCP is a system that identifies and monitors specific foodborne hazards - biological, chemical, or physical properties - that can adversely affect the safety of the food product. This hazard analysis serves as the basis for establishing critical control points (CCPs). CCPs identify those points in the process that must be controlled to ensure the safety of the food. Further, critical limits are established that document the appropriate parameters that must be met at each CCP. Monitoring and verification steps are included in the system, again, to ensure that potential hazards are controlled. The hazard analysis, critical control points, critical limits, and monitoring and verification steps are documented in a HACCP plan. Seven principles have been developed which provide guidance on the development of an effective HACCP plan.

HACCP represents an important food protection tool supported by Standard Operating Procedures, employee training and other prerequisite programs that small independent businesses as well as national companies can implement to achieve active managerial control of hazards associated with foods. Employee training is key to successful implementation. Employees must learn which control points are critical in an operation and what the critical limits are at these points, for each preparation step they perform. Establishment management must also follow through by routinely monitoring the food operation to verify that employees are keeping the process under control by complying with the critical limits.

taken from: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fc01-a5.html



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Thursday, May 17, 2007
Microbiological Risks in Food

Foodborne illness caused by microorganisms is a large and growing public health problem. Most countries with systems for reporting cases of foodborne illness have documented significant increases over the past few decades in the incidence of diseases caused by microorganisms in food, including pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni and enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli, and parasites such as cryptosporidium, cryptospora, trematodes.

Approximately 1.8 million children in developing countries (excluding China) died from diarrhoeal disease in 1998, caused by microbiological agents, mostly originating from food and water. One person in three in industrialized countries may be affected by foodborne illness each year. In the USA, some 76 million cases of foodborne illness, resulting in 325 000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year. There are only limited data on the economic consequences of food contamination and foodborne disease. In studies in the USA in 1995, it was estimated that the annual cost of the 3.3-12 million cases of foodborne illness caused by seven pathogens was US $6.5-35 billion. The medical costs and the value of the lives lost during just five foodborne outbreaks in England and Wales in 1996 were estimated at UK£ 300-700 million. The cost of the estimated 11 500 daily cases of food poisoning in Australia was calculated at AU$ 2.6 billion annually. The increased incidence of foodborne disease due to microbiological hazards is the result of a multiplicity of factors, all associated with our fast-changing world. Demographic profiles are being altered, with increasing proportions of people who are more susceptible to microorganisms in food. Changes in farm practices, more extensive food distribution systems and the increasing preference for meat and poultry in developing countries all have the potential to increase the incidence of foodborne illness. Extensive food distribution systems raise the potential for rapid, widespread distribution of contaminated food products. Changes in food production result in new types of food that may harbour less common pathogens. Intensive animal husbandry technologies, introduced to minimize production costs, have led to the emergence of new zoonotic diseases, which affect humans. Safe disposal of manure from large-scale animal and poultry production facilities is a growing food safety problem in much of the world, as manure frequently contains pathogens.

Changes in eating patterns, such as a preference for fresh and minimally processed foods, the increasingly longer interval between processing and consumption of foods and the increasing prevalence of eating food prepared outside the home all contribute to the increased incidences of foodborne illness ascribed to microbiological organisms. The emergence of new pathogens and pathogens not previously associated with food is a major public health concern. E. coli O157:H7 was identified for the first time in 1979 and has subsequently caused illness and deaths (especially among children) owing to its presence in ground beef, unpasteurized apple cider, milk, lettuce, alfalfa and other sprouts, and drinking-water in several countries. Salmonella typhimurium DT104 has developed resistance to five commonly prescribed antibiotics and is a major concern in many countries because of its rapid spread during the 1990s.

These changes in microbiological hazards in foods have been recognized by the World Health Assembly and by Codex. The 22nd session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the 45th Codex Executive Committee requested FAO and WHO to convene an international expert advisory body similar to the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) on the microbiological aspects of food safety to address in particular microbiological risk assessment. The results of these risk assessments will provide the scientific basis for measures to reduce illness from microbiological hazards in foods.

Effective management of microbiological hazards is enhanced through the use of tools such as Microbiological Risk Assessment (MRA) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems. Sound microbiological risk assessment provides an understanding of the nature of the hazard, and is a tool to set priorities for interventions. HACCP is a tool for process control through the identification of critical control points. The ultimate goal is improvement of public health, and both MRA and HACCP are means to that end.

taken from: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/micro/general/en/index.html



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