There was a time when the biggest problem that McDonald’s—one of America’s famous fast food chains—faced was not just about fattening foods. Though the problem laid in one of their food items on the menu, the issue wasn’t just about “super-sizing.” It was more about the fact that their French fries was apparently not made of any ordinary potatoes.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, refer to organisms that have had their genetic material engineered or altered. Current use of GMOs often cite agricultural plants for the purpose of higher yield, reduced cost, higher resistance to pest and diseases, as well as enhanced nutrients for certain crops. In some cases, GMO crops have also been developed with the purpose of being more resistant to the ever-growing challenges brought about by climate change, such as drought, frost and a number of similar environmental stressors. A number of animals have also been added to the list whose genetic materials have been tampered with so to speak, mostly for the purposes of less susceptibility to diseases. Take for example cows that have been “enhanced” to avoid succumbing to mad cow disease.
Though GMOs have been a long-debated topic since the 90s, it wasn’t until right before the new millennium rolled in that the issue came to its pinnacle. Anti-GMO parties’ arguments on the lingering probability of effects cropping up in the long run heightened the issue when a certain controversial study apparently showed that a few strains of modified potatoes proved toxic to laboratory rats. Of course, this only seemed to further give credence to fears and paranoia over the matter.
Despite the time given for the issue’s fear-fueled popularity, reluctance over truly pursuing this field on a vaster, global scale still persists. As of late, it seems that the embers of this issue has yet to burn out.
This could possibly explain the reticence and consequential complaints that emerged in China when complaints were filed upon knowledge that children were apparently fed GM rice without having informed said subjects or their parents about the “experiment.”
The GM rice, or golden rice, was created as an enhanced variety that was modified to contain beta carotene. Beta carotene was, in turn, supposed to boost vitamin A. The modification was aimed at helping developing countries correct a deficiency in said vitamin that, if left untreated, could then lead to blindness. The trial was specifically designed to gauge how efficiently vitamin A was converted from beta carotene. However, critics of the golden rice stated that the crop does not in fact contain enough beta carotene to effectively block loss of eyesight due the aforementioned vitamin deficiency.
Regardless of the arguments that plague the validity of this study, the dilemma is now focused on the ethical regulations that were violated. In the process, the Chinese researchers behind this study were faced with accusations for said violations.
Upon review, the parents were informed that the rice their children were being fed contained beta carotene, although it wasn’t specified just how the rice obtained that capability. Furthermore, they were also unaware and uninformed of the controversy and skepticism that the matter of GMO foods was often surrounded by.
In fact, setting aside the ethics alone, the problem seem to focus on the mere fact that the subjects certainly feel deceived. To put it simply, one of the subjects’ fathers questioned that if there were no problems or issues concerning GMO at all, then why were they deceived in the first place?
Therein lays the crux of the matter.
Although not entirely the main contributing factor to the furthering of distrust toward GMO foods, this incidence certainly does not help alleviate matters.
~M. A. Gumapac