Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

Characteristics

Fate and Transport in the Environment

Exposure Pathway

Methods for Measuring Exposure

Strategies for Preventing Exposure

Methods for Monitoring in the Environment


Harmful Effects

Dose Response

Absorption, Distribution and Metabolism

Sites of Toxicity

Biomarkers of Disease

Risk Assessment

References

5103/5104 Home

Methods for Monitoring in the Environment

In the post-market environment various watchdog groups and government regulators are working to monitor consumer exposures to GM foods that are not approved for human consumption (Taylor, 2003). In 2000, Genetically Engineered Food Alert, a coalition of seven organizations, first reported the presence of Starlink corn in the human food supply that led to the recall of many corn-based products from the market. Government inspectors discovered the presence of a variety of GM corn that was unapproved for human consumption in soybeans and prevented it from entering the food supply (Taylor, 2003).

There are widespread calls around the world for post-market surveillance systems to monitor for possible long-term health effects of genetically modified foods (EU, U.K, and NAS websites). The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency plans to monitor consumption patterns of genetically modified foods and to match them to data on Birth defects, cancer incidence, diabetes and other diseases (Bakshi, 2003). Along with a surveillance program, the European Union is in the process of designing a mandatory traceability program for all GM foods grown in and imported into Europe. Both of these programs involve mandatory labeling of GM food products. In the absence of any reliable physiological tests to detect genetically modified foods in the body post-consumption, food labeling is the only way for consumers and regulators to know which GM foods are being consumed and in what quantities.

In the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences has called for a similar surveillance program (NAS website). The U.S. government opposes a mandatory labeling and food traceability program on the basis that there is no threat to public health by GM foods and that it would be too costly to industry. However, consumer demand for traceability and labeling may cause manufacturers to adopt these practices on their own. Currently 10% of corn in the U.S. is grown under a traceability system and that number is expected to grow (Taylor, 2003).


References

Activities of the European Union: Food safety. (n.d.). Retrieved September 26,2003.

Bakshi, A. (2003). Potential adverse health effects of genetically modified crops. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 6, 211-225.

National Academies of Science: Transgenic plants and world agriculture. July, 2000.

Taylor, M., and Tick, J. Post-market oversight of biotech foods. The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. April, 2003.

UK’s Food Standards Agency, Post-market monitoring of potential health effects of novel (including GM) foods: feasibility study. July 23, 2003.