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Opinions of Friday, 31 October 2008

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

What are the Long effects of GM foods

What Are the Long-term Ramifications of Genetically Engineered Food on Ghanaian Consumers?

Is our health- care system ready to handle the fallout?

WOULD YOU LIKE your light -soup laced with antibiotics -saturated goat meat or fish? What about your banku laced with engineered microorganisms?

You can giggle if you want at that, but I’m not making this up. Neither is this a science fiction. It’s real and it’s coming to a restaurant near you, very soon. Oh heck, you’re probably eating genetically engineered food as you read this. Yuck!

The floodgate of genetically altered food has been opened by the food production companies in the developed world. But, the question is: As an import-dependency society, can our medical institutions and health delivery systems withstand the long- term effects of genetically engineered food that would be flooded on our market s?

Listen to this: This is God’s honest truth, and I mean it. The America food and meat production companies have been given the green light by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to introduce genetically altered food and meat commercially to the consumer marketplace, without any label. This means one cannot differentiate between the natural or organic food and that of genetically altered ones.

For those of us who have been living in caves some where in Afghanistan, for the last few years; genetically modified (GM) foods are foods the biological make-up of which has been tampered with in order to speed up their growth and increase their yield. This scientific feat is accomplished by changing the original genes of the animal/ plant or adding the genes of other plants or animals. Got it?

This genetically engineered procedure was initially done to vegetables and plants to maximize harvest and profit. But, now it has been extended commercially on a large scale to animals--goats, pigs, cow, fish, chickens and other food-chain----; all in the name of profit and at the expense of consumers’ health; especially those in the developing world.

With all that, my question is: How do the Ghanaian consumers—who depend on import—stand on this hugely important and serious issue?

For one thing, every scientific breakthrough has its long-term costs and benefits. . That is why the controversies surrounding genetically engineered animals and foods will not go away any moment soon.

The portrait that has emerged from the debate of genetically engineered food is very disturbing. In the U.S the Consumers Union; an advocacy group is also concerned that the genetically altered meat and milk will not be labeled to alert consumers of their contents .It is also concerned that not enough studies have been done to determine their long-term effects or benefits on the consumers’ health.

With our archaic and over-stretched, cutthroat medical delivery system, does it make sense to consume genetically altered meat or food---when we can hardly find our bearings when it comes to fighting the natural diseases in our midst?

Are you still not convinced that the GM foods are dangerous to your health? Okay, let me ask you this : If genetically altered foods are that great for human consumption how come organic or natural foods cost so much in the developed countries? Shouldn’t that alone empower us to produce our own food by any means necessary?

With our fertile land, great climate, and enough sunshine is there any reason why we keep importing everything from tooth picks to fish, eggs, beef, canned tomatoes and baby foods? Are we prepared as a nation to deal with all that medical issues which will eventually come out of this newly-found food chain ?

To protect American consumers , the U.S, Department of Agriculture has ordered food retailers and supermarkets to label their food products by country of origin; so as to trace the culprits when something goes wrong in the food chain.—what a smart move! Any lesson here?

Who is protecting the Ghanaian consumers from GM foods or educating them about this important issue? It’s surely not the government or the Ghana Standard Board. But then, why should you leave your health issues in the hands of politicians and policy makers? For a start stop eating food and meat the origins of which you don’t know. Better yet, eat locally produced meat; if you want to live a little longer.

The bad odor controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods should be enough to question its health and nutritious benefits in relation to our health care system. And, so far no one has claimed with precise accuracy that Gm foods are harmless and that they won’t affect consumers’ health in the distant future, when the chicken come home to roost.

While the U.S has accepted GM foods with little trepidation, genetically engineered food is viewed with wariness and disdain by environmentalists, Europeans and other health –conscious individuals in the developed world. So what are we doing to prevent it from hitting our shores?

What we need is heart-healthy, natural (organic) leaning food; from our own backyards.

Got it? Good!

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi

*The author is a social Commentator and Founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment Educational Foundation, for the youth of Asuom, Akim