In this day in age, it’s ironic how concerned people are becoming about the food they consume despite how little they actually know about it. In Claire Morris’ article, “Public Views on GMOs: deconstructing the myths,” it even states, “70% of the population thinks that ordinary tomatoes do not contain genes, whereas genetically engineered tomatoes do.” If that quote doesn’t speak for itself concerning this epidemic than I don’t know what does. For years we’ve been faced with essentially two options when shopping for produce in the supermarket: organic or non-organic. Although many people swear by their strict organic diet, it seems that the public has been shielded from what else is out there. Currently hundreds of breakthroughs are being made in the field of food technology. While it may not be the precious “organic” label we’re used to, it’s a significantly better option. If society begins to adopt this new mindset and supermarkets incorporate more products alternatively produced through food technology into stores, it will prove to benefit the producer, consumer and the environment.
One of the greatest difficulties in defining a term such as “organic” is that it has become a very loose, broad term. So loose, in fact, that the FDA doesn’t even regulate the term “organic” in food labels. This is instead placed in the hands of the USDA, and foods deemed organic still must comply with the standards of both the FDA and the USDA, which essentially state in the USDA’s website, “Organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substance.” Although these requirements may seem promising, there are a lot of ways in which these organic standards aren’t as promising as they seem.
The term “non-organic” can be just as vague. As far as we’re concerned, “non-organic” could be anything from an organic carrot that just missed the mark for being labeled organic to a box of poptarts. There are so many ways in which produce is being engineered in so many different ways, so theres is no reason the labels shouldn’t keep up too.
One common misconception with organic food is that it is significantly healthier for humans. This is not proven to be true. In many instances, although organic food contains less pesticides than non-organic foods, the amount of pesticides have not proven to cause any difference in health among people. As explained by Max Whitmore in his article, “Advantages and Disadvantages of Organic Food”, one study done over a forty five year period concluded, “After reviewing 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods, researchers found little evidence pointing to superior health benefits in organic foods versus conventional foods.” This is just one of the many studies conducted proving in many instances, people are of equal health regardless of whether they eat organic or non-organic. Unfortunately, people have become so quick to judge things such as GMOs or anything that is not dubbed as organic that they completely disregard these possible benefits. In the article, “Organics versus GMO: Why the debate?,” Robert Wager discusses this.
“According to the World Health Organization, 250,000 to 500,000 children in the developing world go blind each year due to vitamin A deficiency, half of whom die within a year. 250 million preschool children, mainly in urban slums, suffer from this deficiency. In all, 2-3 million people die from vitamin A deficiency-related diseases every year.”
In response to this terrible epidemic, researchers produced a genetically modified crop, “golden rice”. This crop not only promised to prevent blindness and build up the immune system, but was readily available to ship to the children in need. Unfortunately the environmental organization Greenpeace banned the distribution of this rice without looking into any information on it and simply stated it was on account of the fact that it might cause “environmental and health risks.” It is wrongful that one-sided anti GMO groups turn a blind eye to these situations when millions of people are falling victim to an illness that could be alleviated by a safely modified crop. It often seems as if organic activists cherry-pick the science behind their pro-organic reasoning, while ignoring the wealth of science that supports genetically modified organisms.
As a result of all this discrimination about food being enhanced through biotechnology, people fail to see the countless other options just waiting to be adopted by the food industry. When I say organic foods should be eliminated from stores across the nation, I don’t want to completely annihilate all sense of organic foods, but rather modify and enhance the label itself and introduce people to the variety of new, exciting and better options out there. Allison Aubrey from her article, “Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You,” discusses how scientists are “measuring nutrient levels in all kinds of crops…such as super-nutritious microgreens. They’re trying to breed new varieties of crops that yield not a bigger harvest but a more nutrient-rich harvest.” She suggests that instead of labeling food as simply “organic” or “nonorganic” perhaps food will be classified by the amount of nutrients they contain. For example, one company named Foodini is revolutionizing the food business by creating a machine that allows you to put in ingredients you pick and create your own food, such as chicken nuggets. In her article, “Six Technologies That Could Shake the Food World,” Annie Gasparro discusses this process.
“Parents can let their children pick a shape like dinosaurs or stars, and the Foodini will print—and cook—chicken nuggets in that form. Machines also plan to have inputs for fat and calorie content that will adjust the size of the nuggets or cookies that come out.”
This allows people to really take control of and customize their own food to suit their needs. Besides touching on human health, food technologies are also being put to use to benefit the environment. When any given food begins to make people sick at a large scale, every once of it is tossed away. Now, researchers have discovered a new concept: edible barcodes. Later in the article Gasparro explains this stating, “Applied to food, the bar codes are invisible, tasteless and safe to eat. Created by combining segments of seaweed DNA into a unique signature, the bar codes can be applied to a single food item like an apple or a silo full of wheat used in flour.” Because of this, tainted food can quickly and easily be traced back to the source of the issue, saving massive quantities of food that would otherwise be thrown away. In an article from Crop Life International, “5 Big Biotech Breakthroughs,” one of the ways in which food is being preserved is through producing drought-resistant crops in areas that face long periods without rainfall. As the article explains, scientists “hope to plant the biotech maize in 2017, as a recent study from the International Food Policy Research Institute estimated drought-tolerant maize could raise yields by 17% in East Africa during severe droughts in 2050.” Not only will this safe alternative save the farmers from disposing of wasted dried crops, but produce an even greater abundance than ever before.
These breakthroughs have, and continue to, prove as effective alternatives to keep up with the ever growing issues correlated to today’s food industry. As these problems begin to grow and evolve, the ways in which we safely modify our food should to. Hopefully in the future, there will be no clear cut “organic” labels but rather an abundance of other healthy alternatives all brought to life through genetic and technological means. This process can only be expedited through the support of consumers and industries willing to set aside their old biases and take a look at the breakthroughs being made in the food technology industry.
Whitmore, M. (2017, October 03). Advantages & Disadvantages of Organic Foods. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/442122-advantages-disadvantages-of-organic-foods/
Wager, R., Popoff, M., & Moore, P. (2018, January 12). Organics versus GMO: Why the debate? Retrieved from https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/10/15/organics-versus-gmo-why-the-debate/
Aubrey, A., & Charles, D. (2012, September 04). Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/09/04/160395259/why-organic-food-may-not-be-healthier-for-you
Gasparro, A., & Newman, J. (2018, October 03). Six Technologies That Could Shake the Food World. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/six-technologies-that-could-shake-the-food-world-1538532480?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=4
5 Big Biotech Breakthroughs. (2015, February 5). Retrieved from https://croplife.org/news/5-big-biotech-breakthroughs/
Marris, C. (2001, July 01). Public views on GMOs: Deconstructing the myths. Retrieved from http://embor.embopress.org/content/2/7/545?casa_token=3rhU2i8A8nYAAAAA:52mVUK6U4UVFd7OYTgWEUTgTTffMTZ3XJW2mknVG5n0o5wxjJPqDADnDR09SiiLMTNMtni2ZZex3t84f8xIh1A#ref-7
Organic Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards