As the United Kingdom Paves the Way for Gene-Edited Food, Controversies May Resurface

Since the introduction of genetic engineering by biochemists Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen in 1973, the world has never been the same again.

The technology opened so many doors for scientists where it could be applied. However, some researchers never stopped discovering how far they could go with the knowledge — sometimes leading to actions that are wrong and unethical.

Photo: YouTube/Biology with Masse

As stated in the article “Human Gene Editing: Great Power, Great Responsibility” that was published in Scientific American, “It’s critical to appreciate the implications of the power of science as articulated by Richard Dawkins that ‘science is the most powerful way to do whatever it is you want to do. If you want to do good, it’s the most powerful way of doing good. If you want to do evil, it’s the most powerful way to do evil.’ Never before have we—or any other species on this planet—had such influence and so much power over the fundamental nature of our own biology.”

GMOs Are in a Lot of American Foods, Says U.S. Food and Drug Administration

In the United States, the first GMO produce – a GMO tomato – created through genetic engineering was made available for sale in 1994. This was after federal agencies evaluated studies that proved the GMO product to be as safe as traditionally grown tomatoes.

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From that period, more GMO food and ingredients produced through genetic engineering have been introduced to the US market, which include corn, sugar beets, apples, summer squash, papayas, potatoes, canola, alfalfa, and soybeans.

In 2016, Congress passed a law that requires the labeling for certain foods produced through genetic engineering to use the term “bioengineered.”

In 2019, the FDA completed the consultation on the first food that came from a plant whose genome was edited.

Photo: YouTube/Biology with Masse

With assurance from the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Sciences, which have all declared that there’s no good evidence GMOs are not safe, the American public has been more confident in the consumption of these bio-engineered products.

UK Proposes Relaxation of Regulations on Gene-Edited Food

However, in the UK, it is not yet very sure whether the public will accept gene-edited food the same way as the Americans. Currently, there is a proposal for the government to relax regulations on gene-edited products.

Experts differ in their opinions.

“I think most people now have what I call the Catherine Tait view: ‘Am I bovvered?’” said Professor Jonathan Jones of the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norfolk.

Photo: YouTube/Biology with Masse

On the other hand, Kierra Box from Friends of the Earth remarked, “Gene editing is just a subset of GM. If we’re interfering with the genetic codes in nature, we don’t know how those things respond.”

Others think that the public perception has softened, but, as they see, it the contention really comes from the government’s lack of knowledge about genetic engineering.

“The legislation doesn’t really have any thought about the purposes for which these technologies are going to be used,” said Dr. Pete Mills, an assistant director at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. “I think that’s problematic.”

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