Food makes philosophers of us all. Death does the same . . . but death comes only once . . . and choices about food come many times each day.
We make choices every time we make a purchase in a café, a restaurant or, god forbid, at the supermarket. How much are we informed about these choices or indeed how many of us think about the choices we make and the impact these choices have.
The ethics of genetically modified food is among the most pressing societal questions of our time and encompasses a broad range of subjects, including the meaning of food, moral analyses of vegetarianism and starvation, the safety and environmental risks of genetically modified food, issues of global food politics and the food industry, and the relationships among food, evolution, and human history.
There are questions that have to be asked! Will genetically modified food feed the poor or destroy the environment? Is it a threat to our health? Is the assumed healthfulness of organic food a myth or a reality?
The only way to find the answers to these questions is research and a personal analysis of the arguments on either side. It’s a tough question to ask whether we should genetically modify food to feed the worlds poor, and if we do, at what risk to those who will rely on it, or the effect it will have on the earth.
There are countless arguments on either side but all genetically modified foods intended for sale in Australia and New Zealand must undergo a safety evaluation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). FSANZ will not approve a GM food unless it is safe to eat.
People have been manipulating the genetic make-up of plants and animals for countless generations using traditional cross breeding. This involves selecting plants and animals with the most desirable characteristics (e.g. disease resistance, high yield, good meat quality) for breeding the next generation. These desirable characteristics arose from naturally occurring variations in the genetic composition of individual plants or animals. But is the same as selecting cells to manipulate the ability of the organism to grow quicker or more robustly.
Questions have to be asked not just about GM foods but all foods we buy. Don’t be scared to ask your supplier about where the food you buy comes from, how it is grown and why they have chosen to sell it.
It is only after asking questions that we can truly understand what it is we eat.