Some have termed the genetically manipulated crops ‘frankenfoods’ and have questioned the potential harm to people and the environment that could come from their production. This discussion will answer these questions regarding the safety of these foods and present an overview of bioengineered foods.
Bioengineering food involves “splicing a gene from one organism, such as a bacterium, into a plant or animal to confer certain traits” (Muth et al, 2002). These traits, developed for agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans, canola and cotton include increasing nutrients, tolerance to herbicides and drought, resistance to fungus and insects and reduced spoilage. Bioengineered corn and soybeans have become increasingly widespread among farmers during the last decade and the products can be commonly found in most grocery stores. Companies that engineer and produce bioengineered foods as well as manufacturers that choose to use these foods in their ingredients are faced with a stringent and ever-developing regulatory oversight by three government agencies; the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Which agency regulates a particular product is determined by the intended use of the crop.
The EPA has the responsibility of regulating the sale, use, distribution and testing of all pesticides, even those genetically produced in a crop such as a type of corn which produces toxins that repels insects but is harmless to humans. The EPA also establishes tolerances for pesticide in crops meant for both animal and human ingestion. It does not designate between the two however, either a genetically produced crop is safe for both or neither. The FDA bases its policy concerning bioengineered foods on the conception of ‘substantial equivalence.’ Those bioengineered foods not