While genetic modification of crops elicits considerable opposition in Europe the opposition is much less in the United States. An Iowa State economist says in a survey he did consumers indicate they would pay more for crops genetic engineered to contain more antioxidants.
AMES, Iowa - Consumers are eager to get their hands on, and teeth into, foods that are genetically modified to increase health benefits - and even pay more for the opportunity.
A study by Iowa State University researcher Wallace Huffman shows that when consumers are presented with produce enhanced with consumer traits through intragenic means, they will pay significantly more than for plain produce.
By "intragenic" they mean genes that are transferred within species. Most of these sorts of transfers could be done with conventional breeding programs, albeit with much longer time spans than the amount of time it takes to do genetic manipulations in a lab. Our major food crops are products of conventional breeding that concentrated combinations of genetic variants that already existed more rarely in wild plants. So the intragenic genetic modifications probably won't create crop strains any more radical than the foods we already eat.
People are willing to pay more for food that has more antioxidants in them.
"What we found was when genes for enhancing the amount of antioxidants and vitamin C in fresh produce were transferred by intragenic methods, consumers are willing to pay 25 percent more than for the plain product (with no enhancements). That is a sizable increase," said Huffman, distinguished professor of economics.
We already eat apple sauce fortified with vitamin C, milk fortified with vitamin D, and grains fortified with a variety of vitamins. Genetic engineering will shift food fortification into the genes. This has already been done with golden rice which has genes added to make it produce beta carotene which is a precursor which the body converts to vitamin A. The goal with golden rice is to reduce blindness in poor countries caused by vitamin A deficiency.
My main concern with genetic engineering for food fortification involves the choice of nutritional targets. Which vitamins should be boosted? I expect little benefit from fortification for most antioxidant vitamins. But prospects look better for benefit from the non-vitamin antioxidants (update: more accurately, some compounds that up-regulate detoxifying enzymes and repair enzymes). My suggestion: Measure antioxidant levels of wild berries and other wild crops. Then genetically engineer production crops to have the same levels. So, for example, farmed blueberries would contain the same levels of polyphenols as wild type.
Also, I would want genetically enhanced fortified strains to be so labeled.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2011 September 15 11:41 AM Nutrition Antioxidant Sources|