The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in livestock and crops, as well as trade and consumption of GMOs are highly controversial topics.
Proponents of genetic engineering argue that GMOs represent the only viable solution to food shortages in an ever-growing global population. They claim that the use of GMOs in agriculture and their consumption have caused no harm to livestock or humans so far. Heated debate also persists over GMO food labelling, with food manufacturers in the USA arguing that mandatory GMO labelling hinders the development of agricultural biotechnology, and may also "exacerbate the misconception” that GMOs endanger human health.
Animals: GMO or non-GMO?
However, opponents of GMOs are far from convinced, and they are concerned about the potentially negative impact of GMOs on the environment, livestock and humans. The inevitability of GMO-contamination to some level has been widely recognised in non-GMO producing countries, but many countries, including EU countries, seek to control its spread. Opponents of GMOs are also concerned about the lack of data on the long-term effects of GMO use. These concerns have been effective in limiting GMO acceptance by the public.
Our guest blogger, Dr Tatjana Brankov of University of Novi Sad, Serbia, in her opinion piece below, describes how GMOs find their way to the daily diet of livestock, and subsequently to human diet, in different geographical regions of the world, including non-GMO producing countries.
To find out what this means for customers who want to avoid GMOs in their diet, or to farmers who want to keep their farms GMO-free, read on…
How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) enter the food chain in non-GMO producing countries
by Tatjana Brankov, Faculty of Economics, University of Novi Sad, Serbia.
Edited by M Djuric, CAB International, Wallingford, UK
A superficial review of the legislation on transgenic foods and feeds indicates that consumers in non-GMO producing countries consume GMO-free food. However, less attention is paid to the fact that GMOs can enter the food chain through the import of transgenic foodstuff and feedstuff or by contamination.
Crops: GMO or non-GMO?
In some countries, transgenic food production is fully equal to conventional production. The concept of substantial equivalence, developed by the OECD and further elaborated by FAO/WHO “embodies the concept that if a new food or food component is found to be substantially equivalent to an existing food or food component, it can be treated in the same manner with respect to safety, i.e. the food or food component can be concluded to be as safe as the conventional food or food component” (FAO/WHO 1996). Such a situation exists in a number of countries, including the USA, where it has been estimated that up to 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves, from soda to soup, and from crackers to condiments contain GMO ingredients (Center for Food Safety 2017).
On the other side, EU countries apply the precautionary principle as a guiding approach for trans-border movement of GMOs (Myhr and Traavik, 2002). As the EUR-Lex glossary explains, this principle “relates to an approach to risk management whereby, if there is the possibility that a given policy or action might cause harm to the public or the environment and if there is still no scientific consensus on the issue, the policy or action in question should not be pursued.”