GM Food: Society Could Learn from BSE and CJD

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The Sources from the PowerPoint and Video


The information for this presentation was obtained from a range of sources.  This included The Los Angeles Times (2000) for details on Growth Hormone CJD.   The same source is available if you scroll down and see 'A wonder drug that carried the seeds of death'.  The Guardian, from 1999, provided some details on BSEA  Food Magazine article from 2000:  'Using cattle glands for human drugs' was also used.  The final article was an English Literature article about Mary Shelley.


The Ability to Avoid Food and Medicine Emergencies


The presentation argued that public policy, regarding GM food, could be informed by the case of 'growth hormone' CJD in the UK.  Public policy needs to use warnings regarding the safety of GM food and act upon them where necessary.  If the example of thalidomide is examined then it can be seen that warnings were considered in America but not in Britain. 


The Significance of Frances Oldham Kelsey 


She was a pharmacologist at the United States Food and Drug Administration.  She helped prevent many birth defects in babies in America.  Kelsey reviewed the application for thalidomide and believed that there was not enough evidence to believe that it was safe and refused the application.  Her life story shows that regulators such as the American FDA can maintain drug safety.  It is this experience which the British Food Standards Agency or the European Food Safety Authority needs to learn from.  These regulators need to make sure that future food technologies are safe for public consumption.

Further Commentary on GM food and BSE


In September 2010, a former science minister called for a new GM (food) debate in Britain.  Such a debate should be informed by the British government's handling of prion diseases between 1960 and 2010.  'Growth hormone' CJD has set a dangerous precedent for the introduction of genetically modified food. Therefore, now, the public should be cautious about new technology.  Crops which mix genes from animals (say a horse) with plants (say an apple tree) need to be carefully scrutinised.  In particular, scientists need to be made responsible for their actions so that public safety is not compromised.


A UK supermarket executive suggested that the food industry should stand by the science"  regarding  GM food.  However, it is unclear what it is meant by 'the science'.  It could imply that there is a single or universal understanding of science; but  science is open to interpretation. Discussion over CJD has varied with different interpretations or statements over sporadic CJD and variant CJD.


A former chair of the U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) is quoted as saying that there has been "European prissiness about genetic modification".  The author’s concern is that the FSA's former chair is apparently not willing to discuss any problems with over-population.  Rather, Krebs is suggesting that GM food should be introduced to deal with the challenge of large populations.  The author believes that over-population should be addressed (see the video opposite).

To conclude, consumer concerns should not be dismissed as prissiness.  Consumer caution can be justified as a cautious approach would attempt to avoid another crisis similar to BSE. Finally, policy-makers, such as Krebs, should acknowledge that BSE has influenced attitudes towards GM food.  


GM Food: Society Could Learn from BSE and CJD

YouTube Video

Jonathon Porritt on Population

YouTube Video