Alarms about a global food crisis are growing by the day. In a context of wars, especially Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coupled with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the expectation of an economic recession, many countries have been forced to review their policies on GM foods.
According to UN estimates, 1.7 billion people in 100 countries will be affected by Ukraine’s dwindling grain supply this year, as the country is considered the “breadbasket” of Europe. However, this goes beyond the old continent as, post-pandemic, the number of food insecure people has risen to 276 million.
This, coupled with impending climate change that also puts crops at risk, has put GM foods at the centre of the conversation. These, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), can be an alternative to secure food amidst adverse conditions.
What are GM foods and why are they controversial?
GM foods are foods whose genetic material has been deliberately altered, and which are not one that is likely to be produced naturally through breeding or selection. These modifications are usually obtained by introducing genetic material from one species into the genome of another xnxx.
There are different foods that have been modified, one of the best known of which is Bt maize. To achieve this, the gene of a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, is introduced, with the aim of making it resistant to certain types of pests, and therefore, it lasts longer. This maize is marketed in the United States.
The controversy surrounding GM foods lies in their environmental impact. Once genetically modified seeds are used on a field, they cannot be used again without modification. And it is possible that, if these areas are not controlled, the planting of GM food will cause soil disturbance.
As most GM foods are intended to withstand heavy herbicide use, their use can have undesirable effects. For example, new “superweeds,” which are extremely resistant to herbicides, have been found in the United States and have impacted millions of acres in 22 states.
On the other hand, there are concerns that such foods may increase allergies or the risk of cancer or other diseases. On this issue, it can be said that research has been inconclusive, while voices within biotechnology defend its effectiveness in helping crops grow faster and even safer.
Why might the EU change its position on GM food?
In several countries the use of GMO foods is widespread, such as in the US, Brazil, Canada and India. Others are also beginning to lift regulations, such as Kenya and Colombia. However, the European Union is very wary of GM foods and their use is regulated by the European Regulation 1829/2003 on genetically modified foods.
In most EU member states, GM crops are banned, but pro-biotech voices claim that these bans are made for non-scientific reasons or under dubious research. Even so, the EU’s stance on GM crops is taking a turn.
In March, the EU approved the use of GM soy, rapeseed and cotton crops for the food and feed sectors, prompted by uncertainty over the invasion of Ukraine. Another country that could also change its position is the United Kingdom, especially after its independence following Brexit.
Although this position on GMOs is “transitional,” and only for grain exports in the context of the war, it may be the first step towards greater tolerance of this technology. After all, the climate crisis could also pose an obstacle to food security.
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