Recently NPR recorded a story called “Will Genetically ‘Edited’ Food Be Regulated? The Case Of The Mushroom” in which they discuss under what circumstances genetically modified food is regulated. Rather than adding a gene to prevent mushrooms from turning brown when you cut them, scientists instead decided to edit the gene. Due to this slight technicality in the process of genetically modifying the genes, the mushrooms do not have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This dilemma raises an important question: What should the role of regulation play in this world of genetically modified food?
First and foremost, safety concerns must come to mind. There is always the risk that genetic alterations can result in mutations or harmful outcomes for those eating the food. Furthermore, the public does not necessarily know what is being done to the food they’re consuming. Allowing loose regulations of genetic modification contributes to our culture of not being fully aware of what we’re putting into our bodies.
This is yet another example of how our food is becoming more and more detached from its “natural” state, or how it is grown in nature. It is similar to how the corn in the documentary “King Corn” was genetically modified to grow in close proximity to other corn plants but it was not edible unless processed first. Ultimately, the increase of genetically modified food in the market influences how we view food in our culture because we no longer share a close or personal relationship to it like we once did. I think this distance between us and our food is a result of the Green Revolution and the concept that we need to utilize recent technological advancements to solve all of our problems. There is a significant cultural difference between growing crops on a farm and actually eating them immediately instead of having to send off those crops to a laboratory in order to make them edible.
I support the genetic modification of food in some circumstances (for instance, to increase nutrients in food, etc.); however, this mushroom example seems quite unnecessary. Why does it matter if mushrooms turn brown when you cut them? I think this says something about what our culture really values, for it suggests that we prioritize the aesthetics of our food (appearances) over the potential safety of what we are consuming.