Food

What happens when GM foods are traded internationally

No specific international regulatory systems are currently in place. However, several international organizations are involved in developing protocols for GMOs. The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) is the joint FAO/WHO body responsible for compiling the standards, codes of practice, guidelines and recommendations that constitute the Codex Alimentarius.

the international food code. Codex is developing principles for the human health risk analysis of GM foods. The premise of these principles dictates a premarket assessment, performed on a case-by-case basis and including an evaluation of both direct effects (from the inserted gene) and unintended effects (that may arise as a consequence of the insertion of the new gene).

Codex principles do not have a binding effect on national legislation, but are referred to specifically in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement of the World Trade Organization (SPS Agreement), and can be used as a reference in case of trade disputes.

Have GM products on the international market passed a risk assessment

The GM products that are currently on the international market have all passed risk assessments conducted by national authorities. These different assessments in general follow the same basic principles, including an assessment of environmental and human health risk. These assessments are thorough, they have not indicated any risk to human health.

Further developments are expected in the area of GMOs

Future GM organisms are likely to include plants with improved disease or drought resistance, crops with increased nutrient levels, fish species with enhanced growth characteristics and plants or animals producing pharmaceutically important proteins such as vaccines.

Role of WHO to improve the evaluation of GM foods

on the grounds that public health could benefit enormously from the potential of biotechnology, for example, from an increase in the nutrient content of foods, decreased allergenicity, and more efficient food production; and

based on the need to examine the potential negative effects on human health of the consumption of food produced through genetic modification, also at the global level. It is clear that modern technologies must be thoroughly evaluated if they are to constitute a true improvement in the way food is produced. Such evaluations must be holistic and all-inclusive, and cannot stop at the previously separated, non-coherent systems of evaluation focusing solely on human health or environmental effects in isolation.

GM Products: Benefits and Controversies

As the population is growing fast, ensuring an adequate food supply is going to be a major challenge in the years to come. GM foods promise to meet this need in a number of ways, with properties like pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, and drought tolerance/ salinity tolerance and tailored for better nutrition and therapeutic purposes.

The term functional foods was first introduced in Japan in the mid-1980s and refer to processed foods containing ingredients that aid specific bodily functions in addition to being nutritious. To date, Japan is the only country that has formulated a specific regulatory approval process for functional foods. Known as Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU), these foods are eligible to bear a seal of approval from the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare. Currently, 100 products are licensed as FOSHU foods in Japan.

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