Something is getting lost in the GMO discussion.
Phil Lempert, Editor
Originally published in the weekly e-newsletter, Facts, Figures & the Future.
This week's Public Hearing on Mandatory Biotech Labeling in front of the full Committee on Agriculture could not have been scheduled for better timing. Someone in Washington, DC had their scheduling crystal ball powered on high.
Headlines this week were filled with stories about FDA's approval for the Arctic Apples and Simplot's Innate potatoes. A few groups are using these two newly approved crops as examples why to end the FDA's voluntary review process for GMO foods and create a mandatory and more rigorous approval process.
Sadly, what seems to be getting lost in the discussion - amid the controversy over the approval process and the non-browning attributes of both the apples and potatoes - is that there are actually health attributes that needed to be in the headlines.
Remember just a few years ago how a report on acrylamides causing cancer was all over the news? Sales of French Fries were impacted, and new recipes were developed. SImplot's six new varieties of potatoes all have reduced levels of the toxic chemical. A perfect use of biotechnology; so why are there news reports scaring (vs. informing) on "franken-potatoes"?
The Arctic Apple varieties, by turning "off" four browning genes, are also able to retain more of the antioxidants which normally dissipate through browning. Again, a fact that seems to be lost in the discussion of "why do we need an apple that doesn't turn brown, how will I know if it's fresh?"
As the GMO labeling debate continues, we cannot ignore the reality that biotechnology can help make our foods more nutritious and healthier. Should shoppers have the information they need to make intelligent decisions about which foods to consume? Absolutely. Which is why getting all the information is so important.