The attention of Genetically Modified Foods in Britain

The attention of Genetically Modified Foods in Britain

Introduction

Genetically modified foods are organisms, both plants, and animals, whose genetic makeup has been altered. The alteration of the genetic makeup is entirely different from natural mating or natural recombination methods (World Health Organization, 2014).GMOs have been suggested as the remedy for food scarcity in the world. Food scarcity has been caused by the decrease in arable land for farming and also the adverse effects of global warming. It is estimated that 800 million people in the world already face starvation, and by 2050 the world population will have grown by 2 billion people (Burnett, 2015).GMOs have been suggested as the solution to the increasing demands for food. The United Kingdom has generally been hesitant about the adoption of genetically modified Foods (Feikert-Ahalt, 2014) . However, there has been a gradual trend of acceptance of GMOs leading to the importation of animal feeds. This article seeks to investigate the attention and usage of genetically modified foods in Britain. My role in the research group was to collect and collate documents that will aid in making of a Britain oriented documentary on GMOs. Most of the documentaries on genetically modified foods are generally focused on the United States. Therefore we focused on a documentary that is centered on Britain, thus capturing the attention of the British people. We chose the topic of genetically modified foods because it is a topic that has led to the constant global debate on their safety. Additionally, the reasons quoted for the continued use of GMOs such as global warming are attributed to Anthropocene. Anthropocene has been described as the age of human impact on the earth that has led to environmental degradation (Acciona, 2017). Human activities on land have continuously lead to global warming that has, in turn, had effects on farming and food production, thus the scarcity of food. Our research paper sought to investigate the reception of GMOs in the UK The methodology of this research will involve reviewing the literature on the debate on GMOs in the UK, including changes and regulations in place.

The issue of genetically modified foods has, over the years, been met with lots of resistance in Europe and particularly in the U.K. During the early years of the 21st century, that is around 2003 and 2004, the level of public attitude towards GMOs in the UK was hostile. The borne of contention in the UK and other European countries has been the argument that the GMOs are not safe for human consumption and thus pose health risks to individuals (Feikert-Ahalt, 2014) . Different stakeholders, including biological scientists, the media, and non-governmental organizations, have been the major players in the British debate on the safety and use of GMOs.The discussion in Britain became such a major public issue culminating in the government holding ‘The GM Nation Debate’ in 2003, where different stakeholders stated their case for or against GMOs (Augoustinos, Crabb, & Shepherd, 2009) . A survey carried out by the British Science Association in 2012 showed that the British attitude towards GMOs is not as hostile as it was in 2003. This was attributed to the public’s embrace of technology both in food technology and other sectors (Hickman, 2012) The change in public opinion about GMOs has, however not led to any commercial growing of GMOs although the importation of genetically modified animal feeds has continued. The British government has also allowed experimental growth of GMOs only after approval by regulators. Commercial farming of GMOs has also been allowed only when approved by the European Union.

The critics of GMOs in the UK have continually argued that they are not safe for both human use and the environment. Their arguments are similar to proponents of post-anthropocentrism, who argue that humans should not consider themselves superior to other species nut instead should undertake the principle of caring for the nonhuman species. The UK government policy approach and legislation on the use of GMOs have centered on the protection of the environment and people. Amid the GMO debate in the UK, it is generally accepted that the degradation of the environment and global warming as a result of human activities on earth has had an impact on the earth’s potential to provide enough and quality food through natural methods. Proponents of the GMO debate have argued that GMOs will be a solution for the food problem while those in opposition state that GMOs will lead to further destruction of the environment. Some NGOs in the UK have argued that GMOs will lead to the emergence of superweeds, food insecurity, and increase the usage of chemical pesticides (Vidal, 2011) . The proponents of GMOs seem to be gradually winning the debate in the UK as more GMO crops are experimentally being tested. The belief held by the proponents of GMOs in the UK is that GMOs will provide a solution for the impacts of the Anthropocene. The proponents of GMOs will, however, have to wait a little longer since the UK government has not allowed commercial GMO farming yet.

Despite the raging  GMOs debate in the UK, countries in North America, South America, and China embraced the use of GMOs as part of their regular diets way before the ‘The GM Nation Debate ‘of 2003. China, for example, embraced food genetic engineering as a solution for industrialization, which reduced the available land for agriculture (Tao & Shudong, 2003) The United States of America approved the farming of GMOs in 1996. Since then, GMOs cultivation has grown exponentially (Johnson & O’conner, 2015) . However, the use of GMOs in these countries has also been met by opposition from several quarters. Critics of GMOs in China argue that the genetic engineering process is socially unethical, reduces biodiversity, and has been adopted to profit biotechnology companies. The USA regulations of GMOs are concentrated on the nature of the products produced rather than the process used to make them. This kind of legislation has made the USA one of the major countries that have laws that favorably encourage the use of GMOs, and this has led to GMOs production being a pillar of the USA’s economy. However, there is a muted debate on the safety of GMOs leading to food chains such as Chipotle announcing that they will not sell foods containing GMOs.Developing countries, especially in Africa, have been directly affected by the European reluctance to embrace the use of GMOs.Countries in Africa have not adopted the farming of genetically modified foods because of the fear that the produce will not be accepted in European markets, such as in the UK (Burke, 2004).

It is generally accepted by all nations that there is an urgent need to secure food security amid the decreasing land available for agriculture. Genetically modified foods arose as the first solution for this need. However, divergent opinions by different countries have led to differing policies on how to integrate GMOs into their food production systems. Most states have leaped to the adoption and integration of GMOs cultivation in classical Anthropocenic nature where humans consider themselves superior to other nonhuman species and make decisions solely dependent on their well being. Countries such as the USA and China have adopted GMO farming for the sole purpose of ensuring the survival of their people without much consideration of the environmental impact, especially to other nonhuman species.

The Anthropocene nature of humans can also be said to have contributed to the proliferation of biotechnology and pesticide companies keen to secure intellectual property rights. Some of these biotechnology companies majoring in food genetic engineering activities have become pillars of the economy for their respective countries by becoming significant producers and exporters of GMOs.The interests of various stakeholders have led the debate on GMOs.While some biotechnology scientists argue that GMOs will reduce the use of pesticides, NGOs have carried out studies that show that GMO cultivation has increased the use of pesticides. This is an indication that stakeholder interests influence the policies adopted by countries. The UK has consistently discouraged pro-GMO cultivation, but the continued experimental procedures on some GMO foods point to a gradual change in opinion. Perceived agronomic benefits to farmers influence this opinion despite the continued environmental and social ethics concerns that persist. To buy to the post-anthropocentrism ideas, biotechnological scientists in the UK and other parts of Europe have tried to delink new breeding technologies such as gene editing from the gene manipulation practices of GMOs (Sewell, 2020) . The argument, which has not yielded much, seeks to explain that some new breeding technologies don’t have adverse effects associated with GMOs and hence should not be classified as GMO technologies.

Despite Britain and Western Europe, in general, having restrictive measures against GMOs, their success in securing viable alternatives of food production to sustain the increasing population will significantly influence their future opinions on GMOs.Additionally, the gradual positive change of opinion on GMOs by the UK public points to a scenario where genetically modified foods could be accepted if other means of food production prove unsustainable.

Conclusion

Genetically modified food debate around the globe has been solved been partially solved by policies adopted by different countries. The UK has adopted restrictive policies against GMOs with no commercial GMO farming being practiced in the U.K. Britain will have to find alternative methods to boost food production, especially when the effects of the Anthropocene become pronounced.

 

 

References

Acciona (Director). (2017). Anthropocene: the age of human impact on Earth | Sustainability [Motion Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0VRB-PltrE

Augoustinos, M., Crabb, S., & Shepherd, R. (2009). Genetically modified food in the news: media representations of the GM debate in the UK Public Understanding of Science.

Burke, D. (2004). GM food and crops: what went wrong in the UK? EMBO Reports, 432-436.

Burnett, H. S. (2015, December 9). GMOs Are A Real Solution For Today’s Real Problems. Forbes Opinion. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2015/12/09/gmo-solution/#7ad7f5be2dd2

Feikert-Ahalt, C. (2014, March). Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms: England and Wales. Retrieved from The Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/restrictions-on-gmos/england-wales.php

Hickman, L. (2012, March 9). Should the UK now embrace GM food? The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/mar/09/genetically-modified-food-uk-embrace

Johnson, D., & O’conner, S. (2015, April 30). These Charts Show Every Genetically Modified Food People Already Eat in the US Time. Retrieved from https://time.com/3840073/gmo-food-charts/

Sewell, L. (2020, January 10). The future of GMOs, gene editing and plant biotechnology in post-Brexit UK Retrieved from Global Engage: http://www.global-engage.com/agricultural-biotechnology/the-future-of-gmos-gene-editing-and-plant-biotechnology-in-post-brexit-uk/

Tao, Z., & Shudong, Z. (2003). The Economic and Social Impact of GMOs in China. China Perspectives.

Vidal, J. (2011, October 19). GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides, say NGOs. The Guardian.

World Health Organization. (2014, May). Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/

 

 

 

 

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