Saturday, January 16, 2021

Biotechnology and the Food You Eat

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Computers are not the only way technology is affecting seniors; biotechnology is affecting what seniors are eating.

Biotechnology is a term that applies to adapting living organisms with the intent of improving nutritional content, length of ripeness, and flavor. This technology has been taking place for years in the form of breeding plants and animals to have specific characteristics.

Today scientists can take genes from one plant or animal and insert the gene into the DNA of another plant or animal. What used to happen naturally, and take a long period of time, can now be achieved in one growing season. One example is the change in corn. One hundred years ago, corn was not able to resist drought, disease, or strong winds as well as it is today. Another example includes farm animals. Pigs and cows are now bred to be leaner because of the demands of the consumer for lower fat meats. The reason for genetically manipulating the DNA of plants is to produce a better product that is more nutritious, of higher quality, and resistant to disease.

The results of these biotechnology efforts are found in grocery stores all over the country. For example, tomatoes, which soften slower and remain on the vine longer in order to improve color and flavor are available. Peppers modified to be sweeter and remain firmer after harvest, and soybeans genetically modified to be lower in saturated fats and higher in oleic acid are now sold. Products that are soon to be on the market include peanuts with improved protein balance, tomatoes with a larger amount of the antioxidant lycopene, and peas grown to remain sweeter.

Many controversies surround foods enhanced by biotechnology. One concern has to do with food safety. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires that all new foods that are altered nutritionally or chemically from the original item undergo a food safety evaluation. However, these modified foods do not have to be labeled as modified. Only foods that have been modified using a known allergen (for example, milk, egg, wheat, fish, crustacean, tree nuts, and legume proteins) have to be labeled revealing proteins have been added. The important point here is that genetically modified foods have to be tested for safety but do not have to be identified as modified foods unless they contain a common allergen.

More information regarding biotechnology and food is available on the Internet. Two sites providing information include The American Dietetic Association’s web site at www.eatright.org and The International Food Information Council (IFIC) at http://ificinfo.health.org. Explore these sites and the Internet sites below to find out more about the foods you are eating.

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