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Food Biotechnology Ethics. Clark Ford, Ph.D. Food Science and Human Nutrition Iowa State University. What is Food Biotechnology?. Food technology based on biology Ancient food biotechnology: Fermentation by microbes Cheese Beer Wine Bread Modern food biotechnology Tissue culture

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food biotechnology ethics

Food Biotechnology Ethics

Clark Ford, Ph.D.

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Iowa State University

what is food biotechnology
What is Food Biotechnology?
  • Food technology based on biology
    • Ancient food biotechnology:
      • Fermentation by microbes
        • Cheese
        • Beer
        • Wine
        • Bread
    • Modern food biotechnology
      • Tissue culture
      • Genetic engineering
        • Different from plant and animal breeding

genetic engineering
Genetic Engineering
  • Genetic Engineering involves manipulating DNA molecules
  • DNA from one species is spliced into the DNA of another species
    • Called: Recombinant DNA
  • Genetically Engineered organisms are called:
    • Genetically Modified
    • Transgenic
milestones in food biotechnology
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 1953: Structure of DNA discovered
  • 1973: First gene cloned
    • in microbes
  • 1977: Asilomar Conference in USA
    • Recombinant DNA safety
    • Regulation
    • Risk assessment
    • Containment

who regulates food biotechnology
Who Regulates Food Biotechnology?


Food and Drug Administration

Determines safety for human consumption


U.S. Department of Agriculture

Determines safety of GMO agriculture


Environmental Protection Agency

Determines environmental safety


National Institutes of Health

Sets guidelines for Recombinant DNA experiments

milestones in food biotechnology6
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 1990: Recombinant Chymosin Approved by FDA
    • First biotech product for human consumption
    • Enzyme for cheese making
    • Originally from calf stomach
    • Bovine gene expressed in GRAS microbes
      • Generally Recognized As Safe
    • In 80% of U.S. cheese

other products from genetically engineered microbes
Other Products from Genetically Engineered Microbes
  • Food enzymes
    • Bread
    • HFCS Sweeteners
  • Amino acids
  • Peptides
    • Nutrasweet
  • Flavors
  • Organic acids
  • Polysaccharides
  • Vitamins
milestones in food biotechnology8
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 1994: FDA approves

“Flavr Savr” Tomato

    • Prolonged shelf life
    • Improved quality
    • Voluntarily labeled

other genetically engineered plants
Other Genetically Engineered Plants
  • Agronomic traits
    • BT Corn
    • Roundup Ready Soy
    • Disease Resistance
  • Food quality
  • Nutrition
  • Metabolic products
  • Vaccines

bt corn
Bt Corn
  • Natural insecticide from Bacillus thuringiensis
  • Non-toxic to humans
  • Target insect:
    • Corn borer, root worm
    • Boll worm
  • reduces insecticide use
    • reduces mycotoxins in corn
  • 47% U.S. Corn crop Bt (2007)
  • 59% U.S. Cotton crop (2007)

bt concerns
Bt Concerns
  • Bt pollen harms non-target species?
  • Bt crops select for resistant insects
  • Bt pollen can drift to organic fields
  • Food system failed to keep BT Starlink corn out of human food products

Monarch butterfly: endangered?

herbicide resistance
Herbicide Resistance
  • Roundup Ready soy, corn, canola, cotton
  • Allows post-emergence herbicide spraying
  • Increases yield
  • Facilitates no-till farming
  • 91% U.S. Soy (2007)
  • 70% U.S. Cotton (2007)
  • 52% U.S. Corn (2007)

herbicide resistance concerns
Herbicide Resistance Concerns
  • Encourages herbicide use
    • Groundwater contamination
    • Kills beneficial soil microbes
  • Cross-pollinates weeds
  • Fosters dependence on Agrochemcial companies
disease resistance
Disease Resistance
  • Canola
  • Cantaloupes
  • Cucumbers
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Papaya
  • Potatoes
  • Soybeans
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Wheat

Genetically engineered papaya resistant papaya ringspot virus

health and nutrition
Health and Nutrition
  • Golden Rice
    • Vitamin A and Iron enhanced
    • Seeds given to the poor for free
  • Improved Amino Acid Balance
    • Soy (needs Methionine)
    • Maize (needs Lysine)
  • Banana Vaccines

metabolic products
Metabolic Products

Idea: use crops to produce inexpensive


AIDS vaccine in corn

Metabolic products



Cross pollination

Accidental mixing into food supply

genetically engineered animals not approved for food
Genetically Engineered Animals- not approved for food -

Transgenic Fish


Grows 4-6 times faster

Environmental concerns

May escape, outcompete natural species

Transgenic Mammals

Cows, Sheep, Goats

Pharmaceutical production in milk

milestones in food biotechnology18
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 1999: GM corn and soybean products are present in 80% of processed foods in USA
    • Corn:
      • starch, high fructose corn syrup, oil
    • Soy:
      • oil, Lecithin, protein

milestones in food biotechnology19
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 1999: European Union requires GM labels
    • blocks import of GMcorn, beans
      • Ban lifted 2004
        • but no change in anti-GM sentiment in Europe
    • Affects African export crops
      • Paternalism
milestones in food biotechnology20
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 1999: Gerber and Heinz baby foods GM-free
  • 2000: Mc Donalds and Frito-Lay products GM-free

milestones in food biotechnology21
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 2000: USDA Organic Foods Standards
    • Must be GM-free

milestones in food biotechnology22
Milestones in Food Biotechnology
  • 2002 Zambia refuses GM maize as food aid
    • To help 2.5 million in food shortage
    • Calls GM food “poison”
    • Heavily influenced by European attitudes about GM

Zambian President Mwanawasa

global gm crops 2004
Global GM crops (2004)

gm crops in africa 2004
GM crops in Africa (2004)

milestones in food biotechnology25
Milestones in Food Biotechnology

2007: 300 million acres worldwide

Planted in Genetically Modified crops

55% in USA




India, China


12 million farmers

90% are small farmers in developing countries

Growing cotton in India, China

Adoption of GMOs Worldwide

milestones in food biotechnology26
Milestones in Food Biotechnology

2008: Cloned Animals approved by FDA

For human consumption

Goal: quality meat, milk

Best animals cloned

Not transgenic

Is that next?

Label not required

Considered same as normal meat, milk

Not in stores yet

Not certified organic (USDA)

controversy over biotech foods
Controversy over Biotech Foods
  • Debate pits consumer and ecology groups
    • against Multinational Corporations
  • Many farmers, scientists, government agencies
    • caught in the middle
arguments for genetically engineered food
Potential to:

Increase productivity

Increase purity

Increase safety

Improve nutrition

Improve food quality

Improve sustainability

Benefit ecosystem

Process not inherently harmful

Similar to traditional Plant and Animal breeding

Unless misused, outcome expected to be beneficial

Is a powerful technology that could help humanity

Bad ideas weeded out by the market, regulation, lawsuit

Arguments for Genetically Engineered Food

--Paul Thompson

arguments against genetically engineered foods
Arguments against Genetically Engineered Foods

Food safety risk?

unintended consequences

Safety risk for environment

could spread

Genetically Engineered label

not required in U.S.A.

Playing God

not natural

Benefits multinational corporations

not consumers

not developing nations

GMO vs normal Salmon of same age

frankenstein foods unintended consequences
Frankenstein Foods: Unintended Consequences?

Potential GMO food safety problems:

Random gene insertion

Unknown toxins?

New gene products?

Unknown allergies?

No evidence of GMO food safety problems

food allergies
Food Allergies

90% of Food allergies:







tree nuts


GM foods avoid genes from these sources

Peanut proteins can cause severe food allergies!

arguments for labeling
Arguments for Labeling
  • Not equivalent to non-GM
  • Must use Precautionary principle
    • Is uncertainty in risk assessment
  • Labeling indicates process used
  • Consumer right to know and choose
    • Country’s right to know and choose
arguments against labeling
Arguments against labeling
  • Suggests non-existent hazard
  • Expensive to segregate crops and change labels
  • FDA labels required if change in:
    • Allergenicity
    • Nutrition
    • Food Quality
will gm crops feed the world
Will GM crops feed the world?
  • Yes:
    • GM crops are size neutral
      • Small growers can benefit
        • Don’t need large combine
    • Reduced inputs
      • Herbicides, pesticides
        • Lower costs
    • Increased yields
      • Disease resistance
      • Reduced weeds
    • Increased profits

Insect resistant maize, Kenya

will gm crops feed the world35
Will GM crops feed the world?
  • No:
    • Biotech from companies targets the wealthy
      • Intellectual property expensive
      • Public research in developing countries
        • must develop GMOs for the poor
      • Poor that cannot compete driven from land
        • undernutrtion
    • Poor really need
      • Land
      • Water
      • Roads
      • Education
      • Credit
    • Green revolution agriculture unsustainable
      • Monoculture
      • Erosion
      • Fertilizer and pesticide runoff pollution
      • Neocaloric (requires fossile fuels)

GMOs for developing countries

International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, India

will gm crops feed the world36
Will GM crops feed the world?
  • "While feeding the hungry is a laudable goal, current record feed stocks in the U.S. is still not finding its way to those who need it the most.
  • Therefore, the real reasons for hunger is not necessarily the lack of food but the lack of income to purchase and the absence of an infrastructure to get the food to those who need it the most.
  • If the hungry cannot be fed with current worldwide overproduction, what guarantee is there that additional productivity will solve the problem?"

-- American Corn Growers Association