Penn's Arthus Caplan on GM foods. This bio-ethicist was originally cited in the law suit over the death of a young man during a gene therapy trial at Penn. Caplan had provided the ethical advice to the research team. Caplan's views on GM humans are equally cavalier: "Absolutely, somewhere in the next millennium, making babies sexually will be rare. Many parents will leap at the chance to make their children smarter, fitter and prettier."
Are genetically modified foods fit for a dog?
By Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics
The French agricultural cooperative Cana-Caval has eliminated genetically modified ingredients from a large portion of the pet food it makes. This follows hard on the heels of a similar decision by the giant French supermarket chain Carrefour to ban genetically modified ingredients from its store-brand pet foods. The soy, maize and other grains added to Fifi's dinner will be subjected to hi-tech genetic testing to weed out any genetically offensive material.
IT IS TRUE that the French have always followed their own compass when it comes to many things, especially food. But spending money to genetically screen whatever it is that makes it into the dishes of dogs and cats in France nicely illustrates how the debate over genetically modified (GM) food has lost its direction.
The main worries about GM food seem to be that it is either unsafe to eat things that have been genetically engineered or that growing genetically engineered food poses dangers to other animals and plants. The latter concern does merit serious consideration. The former, with all respect to French dog food manufacturers and their customers, much less so.
Past experience with new animals and plants ranging from the African honey bee to the Japanese beetle to any number of other pests roaming around the world shows that the introduction of new creatures into old environments can lead to big trouble. Growing any new plant, genetically engineered or not, requires great caution lest something new winds up unintentionally replacing something old.
There is no excuse for not having better rules and governance for the introduction of new genetically engineered species than currently exist.
Today, there are too many voluntary guidelines and even less rigorous enforcement. The introduction of new species in the past proves that good intentions can lead to bad outcomes, so more must be done to control the
introduction of new forms of GM seeds and plants.
Eating is another matter. GM food has been around in the food supply for many years. Americans and those in many other nations as well as their pets having been snarfing down huge quantities of GM soy and other grains in many, many foods. No one has yet seen any cats with four tails or people with two heads.
Those who would not feed genetically modified products to a dog maintain that the fact that no bodies are piled up outside the GM food plant proves nothing. GM food may still kill you in the decades to come. Perhaps, but in a world where so many things known to be bad for you are consumed with abandon it is hard to worry about the risks of foods that have an exceedingly remote possibility of being harmful. A large part of the developed world eats so many bad things that they and their pets die prematurely due to obesity. A huge percentage of the world dies simply because they do not have enough to eat.
The wonderful promise of genetically modified food is that it can fix both problems. Genetic engineering can get more soy into our diets while getting rid of the bad fats and can also increase the amount of food available so that the poor need not starve.
The French may not think GM food fit even for animals. They are wrong. Grown safely, GM food will be the solution to the current food crisis in which too many die from having too much that is known to be bad, while too many die from having no food at all.