Food safety risks and consumer health.

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Abstract or Summary

The major food safety risks are not eating a healthy diet, and failure to avoid foodborne illness. Over one billion people in the world suffer from food insecurity and malnutrition. Nutritionally enhanced transgenic crops such as Golden Rice are one potential strategy for reducing malnutrition in the world. Transgenic crops are subjected to a rigorous pre-market safety assessment. The safety of novel proteins and other products is established, and through compositional analysis and animal studies, the safety of any observed changes is evaluated. These studies provide evidence that the new product is as safe as, or safer than, comparable varieties. It must be asked, however, if this rigorous analysis is necessary, because unregulated crops produced by other breeding methods also undergo genetic changes and contain unintended effects. Golden Rice poses infinitesimally small, if any, risk to consumers whilst it has the potential to spare millions of lives each year. However, because it is a transgenic crop, it cannot be deployed without years of expensive pre-market safety review. Paradoxically, if Golden Rice had been produced by less precise conventional methods of breeding, it would already be in the hands of poor farmers. It is concluded that the hyper-precautionary regulatory process applied to transgenic crops works to the extreme disadvantage of the hungry and the poor.


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