Food Engineering/Manufacturing/Genetically modified organisms


what do you know about genetically modified organisms(gmos)?

When buying  food inside of stores what is the criteria  used for purchasing  items, do you choose  what you like or what's good for you
What do you think about the fact that scientists  are changing  the genetic  makeup  of these foods ? Do you think that its safe ?

What do you think about the fact that genetically  modified  organisms have been known  to cause many defects  like sterility  and infertility?

How do you feel about the fact that a major food seed producing  company bought over this special  gene that causes sterility  and infertility?

This same company has been granted the access  to test the safety  of their own food by the FDA and have that be the used for the products, do you feel this is safe or a good idea?

products with genetically modified organisms aren't allowed to be labeled. Would you feed products  with your family if they were labeled to have gmo's in them, knowing  the risks?  

Since gmo's are in various  medicines, why do you think they seem to be more harmful  in foods? Or do you feel the side effects  are a product  of the gmo's ?

Gerber was found to input gmo's in their food. Do you think gmo's should be used in baby food?

Do you think that this is natural or safe ?

What is your view on gmo's,  positive  or negative  and why?

Please respond soon


These are a lot of fairly profound questions. I assume you are interested in my personal opinions, so that is how I will answer.Keep in mind that I am an engineer, but also a Certified Food Scientist.

1. What do I know about genetically modified organisms (GMO)?
  GMO are deliberately created plants or animals with new capabilities, such as resistance to certain chemicals, improved physical properties, or the ability to produce new compounds. They differ from conventionally hybridized plants and animals in that the results of GMO are generally predictable, because specific genes are introduced, while in conventional breeding, results are largely random and trials must be conducted over time to select desirable varieties. GMO may also have genes from other species, which could not be achieved by conventional breeding.
2. When buying food, do I choose what I like or what is good for me?
  This implies that those are different choices. I happen to like relatively unprocessed food because I like to cook and have no need for convenience, usually. I do buy cured meat, such as bacon and sausage, because they are too difficult to make at home.We buy fresh fruit and vegetables because we like them. We keep some frozen food, such as ravioli, for quick meals. We buy ready to eat breads and cereals, but also longer cooking oatmeal. I do not believe there are bad foods, but there are foods that can be abused. Prepared meals and other convenience foods are useful for people short on time. Baby foods are a great example; they free up mothers' time for other tasks.
3. Do I think it is safe that scientists are changing the genetic makeup of foods?
  Yes, I think it is safe. Most of the modifications are for the benefit of farmers. The parts of crops that get to consumers are generally identical to their unmodified counterparts. For example, the largest volume crops that are GMO are corn, cotton, rice and soy. 95% of corn is consumed by animals or to make alcohol. Consumers see corn as snacks, corn starch used in sauces, corn oil, and, indirectly, as meat from animals fed corn. Cotton, of course, is not consumed except as cotton seed oil in some foods. Soy is also rarely consumed directly, but rather after being fractionated into oil and protein. Rice is the only one of these crops directly consumed. Other GMO include tomatoes, which have not been especially popular, salmon, which is just being introduced, and some others. All testing done so far indicates that GMO are safe to consume.
4. What do I think about the fact that GMO have been shown to cause defects like sterility and infertility?
  I am not aware that this is a factual statement. If there have been such observations, it is likely that they have been in animal models, probably under extreme conditions, such as diets exclusively based on one material. I do not accept that this is a demonstrated fact.
5. How do I feel about the fact that a major seed company brought over this special gene that causes sterility and infertility?
  I think this refers to a gene used in plants to prevent modified seeds from breeding true, so farmers are compelled to buy new seeds each year. Thus the sterility is of the plants, not consumers. I think this is a despicable commercial ploy by the seed company to maximize profits at the expense of small farmers who traditionally save seeds to sow next harvest. There have been legal fights over it, pitting rights to intellectual property (the GMO) against freedom of action by farmers. Keep in mind that the sterility in question is of the seeds or plants, not people. I believe the uproar against this tactic has largely suppressed its use, but I am  not sure. In any case, I am against it.
6. Do I feel it is a good idea for the seed company to test the safety of its own products?
  This actually is a common practice, for a number of reasons, including the fact that companies want to and are allowed to keep secret their development plans. Safety tests submitted to the FDA are reviewed by third parties (peers)for scientific rigor and often are rejected or modified as a result. It is generally in a company's interest to assure the safety of its products or they will suffer dire consequences if people are harmed.
7. Would I feed products with GMO if they were labeled?
  The issue of labeling is controversial. Most scientists, and I, believe GMO are safe and so labeling would falsely imply otherwise at the expense of the manufacturers and farmers. Activists believe in full disclosure so consumers have a choice, even if it is based on a misconception. The same issue arises with irradiation, which has also been demonstrated to be perfectly safe. Labeling with GMO would not affect my choices in purchasing.
8. Since GMOs are in various medicines, why do I think they seem to be more harmful in foods? Or do I feel the side effects are a product of the GMOs?
  I am not aware that GMOs are in medicines, except possibly as starch or oil. I do not agree that they are harmful at all, so they are not more harmful in foods than in medicines - they are not harmful in either place. I do not know of any side effects attributed to GMO. Maybe you are referring to the use of GMO, such as specially bred goats and plants, that produce vaccines and other active substances. Far from being harmful, these techniques yield pure medications without the risk of allergens, as in some conventional vaccines.
9. Gerber was found to input GMO in their food. Do I think GMO should be used in baby food?
  I was not aware that Gerber used GMO in baby food, but maybe they did. It is hard to avoid because corn products (starch and oil) are so widely used and most USA corn is GMO. I see no harm in using GMO anywhere, including baby food. Because some consumers are concerned, Gerber might try to avoid use, but as I said, that could be hard. Over the years, Gerber has removed salt and sugar from many products because consumers asked them to do so. Those ingredients were used to please mothers' tastes, not the babies'. Likewise, Gerber has a line of organic foods, even though I and most scientists believe organic foods are no different than conventional ones, just more expensive.
10. Do I think this is natural or safe?
   I assume "this" refers to using GMO in baby foods. Yes, I believe it is natural and safe.
11. What is my view on GMOs. positive or negative and why?
   By now it should be clear that I have a generally positive view of GMO. I am critical of the seed companies' business model and of their execution, which totally ignored proper education of consumers in favor of a focus on farmers. This allowed confusing and incomplete information, such as implied by some of your questions, to distort consumers' understanding of GMO in foods.The science behind GMO is complex, but the seed companies did not even try to explain much.  

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J. Peter Clark


How various processed foods are made; ways to improve manufacturing; how to make a new food product.


Employment history: Research Engineer, U.S.Agricultural Research Service, Associate Professor Chemical Engineering, Virginia Tech, Director of Research, Continental Baking Company, President, Epstein Process Engineering, Inc., Vice Presdent Technology, Fluor Daniel, Inc., Consultant to the Process Industries

Organizations: American Institute of Chemical Engineers (Fellow) Institute of Food Technologists, American Association of Cereal Chemists, American Association of Candy Technologists, American Society of Agricultural Engineers,

Publications: Several Encyclopedias (Kirk and Othmer, Chemical Technology; Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition; Wiley Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology; Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems); five books, two book chapters; numerous journals.

Education: BSChE Notre Dame PhD University of California, Berkeley

Awards: AIChE Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Division Award 1998

Clients: Major food processing and pharamaceutical companies.

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