Here's a Q&A I did for a class in response to two articles regarding genetically modified pigs. See links for the full articles: nationalgeographic & justmeans.
1. Do the environmental benefits of improving concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) and reducing phosphorus discharge into the water supply outweigh the risks of genetically modified food?
Absolutely not! I adamantly disagree with genetically engineered foods on the premise that it is a ‘work-around’ to our excessive food consumption problem. A ‘solution’ to this problem would be to change our eating habits, such that we consume less pork and require fewer CAFOs. This would have the same result lowering phosphorus levels.
2 Do you feel that genetically modified food is moving us away from sustainable agriculture?
Again, without changing our dietary habits or what we take for granted in the food supply chain, there is little effect in reducing phosphorus excrement in animals. By creating ‘methane reduced’ pigs we will simply continue consuming more and more of these animals. The transportation and feed costs of maintaining a growing population of these animals will likely cancel out any savings in carbon emissions from the enzyme.
3 In your opinion, what are some considerations the FDA must weigh while they deem if Enviropig is fit to eat?
This is a very difficult decision for the FDA. While 10-years is a lengthy incubation period for any harmful effects from the pigs, I feel that it is still a relatively young evaluation of the effects of the enzyme. Do we know what other bodily effects the enzyme has caused in the pigs? Or will there be side effects from the meat when consumed by humans? Also the JustMeans article says it best: “Who knows what unnatural consequences of relying on genetically altered food could be on the global agricultural structure.” I couldn’t agree more with this. If a population becomes reliant on genetically modified foods, what will happen if unforeseen disease/contamination wipes out the food supply? It is only then that the population will finally be forced to change their diet habits.
4 What other genetically modified foods have been a hot topic of debate?
Salmon and corn are interesting debates. I hold a unified position against genetically engineered meat/fish/poultry. However, I am not as put off by genetically altered plants such as corn and other vegetables. There are big differences in living creatures versus plant life, however, the risks of contaminating the food supply are still comparable. In terms of combating, climate change I think the solution lies in organic local food offerings, and lifestyle change of eating habits.
The more I learn about the food industry, food processing practices, and the boon they present on sustainability, climate change, and human health - the closer I am to becoming a vegetarian!