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If You Don't Want Your Food Genetically Modified, Tell Nature to Stop It.

May 22, 2015 in Economics

By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Chipotle hit the headlines last week when the company announced it would no longer serve customers genetically modified foods. This despite the fact that more than a trillion meals containing genetically modified food have already been eaten in the United States without incident. Science has decisively found that these foods have no negative impact on health.

Chipotle’s move seems to be based more on marketing than on science.

Recent research drives home how misled alarmists are about genetically modified food. All human beings, two Cambridge University scientists have established, are genetically modified, including Chipotle’s customers. Over the years, hundreds of foreign genes have jumped into human DNA through a natural phenomenon called “gene flow.” As a result, all humans carry genes that originated in algae, bacteria and fungi.

If humans can safely accept alien genes without mishap, why not food, too?

Science has decisively found that these foods have no negative impact on health.”

Farmers and breeders have for centuries used cross-breeding to improve the genetic characteristics of crops and animals. Because this process involves gene transfers within the same species, environmental advocates label it “natural” — even though cross-breeding is clearly man-made. Modern genetic splicing makes it possible to combine genes from completely different species to produce much-needed products, including pest-resistant and high-yielding crops.

The Bt gene from pest-resistant bacteria, for example, has been inserted into cotton to create a pest-resistant Bt cotton. The combination has greatly raised yields and reduced pesticide use. But some activists condemn this as a crime against nature.

When fears about genetically modified foods first arose, little was known about gene flow, also called horizontal gene transfer. The idea that genes could jump across species violated then-conventional wisdom. But scientific research has established that natural gene transfers regularly occur. So genetic transfers are not a human invention — just a belated human effort to imitate what nature has been doing all along.

This discovery has convinced some longtime campaigners against genetically modified crops to make a U-turn. British author and journalist Mark Lynas, for example, converted from being an activist opposed to genetically modified food to a firm supporter in a notable 2013 mea culpa speech, in which he apologized for letting his opinions trump the scientific data.

Scientists once thought that gene transfers occurred naturally only in simple organisms like bacteria. But research shows that transfers are also common in complex species, including human beings. Does …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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