Magazine article Insight on the News

Putting a Spin on Bioengineered Foods

Magazine article Insight on the News

Putting a Spin on Bioengineered Foods

Article excerpt

As the public becomes more familiar with genetically modified food, it seems possible that some of the hysteria/paranoia will fade. If we take the word of Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Jane Henney, "biotech products have produced no evidence of food-safety risks; not one rash, not one sore throat, not one headache." In a column on the NannyCulture Website, Richard Berman says many of us are comfortable munching on bioengineered edibles already, whether we know it or not. "About 60 percent of processed foods already contain some genetically improved component" he notes.

If the public loses its fear of so-called "Frankenfoods," where will the scaremongers go with their campaign? A clue is provided by Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet. About 30 years ago, Lappe's popular book attacked the "expert" notion that humans were approaching the limit of the planet's ability to provide food. Unfortunately, this laudable observation was followed by Lappe's contention that modern farming and ranching methods, driven by market demands created by huge agribusinesses, were to blame for hunger in the world.

The latest spin, it would seem, is that it doesn't matter whether biotech foods are safe. In the Los Angeles Times, Lappe wrote: "Hunger is not caused by scarcity of food but by a scarcity of democracy. Thus it can never be solved by new technologies, even if they were to be proved `safe.' It can only be solved as citizens build democracies in which government is accountable to them, not private corporate entities. …

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