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This essay was submitted to Open Philanthropy's Cause Exploration Prizes contest.

By Kayode Adekoya 

INTRODUCTION 

A growing consensus is forming around the prediction that the global human population will reach nearly 10 billion people by 2050 (FAO, 2009a). Providing adequate and nutritious food for such a large population highlights the importance of the world's agriculture system. Indeed, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects that food production will have to increase by 70 percent over the same time frame (FAO, 2009a). Note that as with any prediction, there are numerous underlying assumptions and uncertainties associated with the reported number; however, it is almost certain that there will be a need for global food production to increase substantially in the foreseeable future. Projected increases in income globally will increase demands for not only more food but for better quality food, leading to an increased intake of animal protein (FAO, 2009a; Masuda and Goldsmith, 2010). The demand for more high-quality foods will have to be met by increases derived from plant and animal production systems.

As a result, animal agriculture in the 21st century faces increasing and persistent challenges to produce more animal protein products in the context of an emerging, globally complex set of conditions for sustainable animal production. This, in turn, requires the rethinking of the very nature of animal science. In addition to the increasing demand for animal products in the context of globalization of food systems.

Climate change will only make things worse as elevated levels of CO2 reduce the nutritional content of grains, tubers and legumes, affecting key nutrients such as zinc and iron ,The estimated impact of undernutrition on gross domestic product (GDP) is 11% every year – more than the annual economic downturn caused by the global financial crisis .

A growing population means more mouths to feed. The expanding global population is getting wealthier, and richer people tend to eat more and demand food that is resource intensive to produce, particularly meat and dairy.

It has been estimated that we need to produce more food in the next 35 years than we have ever produced in human history, given the projected increases in world population, and on the basis that rising incomes will continue to change diets.

Climate variability and extremes.

Economic slowdowns and downturns (exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic).

“In addition, millions of people around the world suffer from food insecurity and different forms of malnutrition because they cannot afford the cost of healthy diets,” says the report, noting that the impact of these drivers is heightened by pre-existing levels of inequality – and they are often interconnected.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/global-food-security-challenges-solutions/

Globally, food security challenges are usually framed from the perspective that food production must increase by 60-70% in order to feed an expanding global population, expected to reach almost 10 billion people by 2050.1 In an EU context, the implication that there will be insufficient food available to feed the growing global population suggests that the EU agri-food sector has a key role to play in contributing to global food security by increasing output, primarily through increasing productivity. In particular, the EU agri-food sector is expected to enhance its competitiveness on the world market in order to capitalise on the dietary needs of a growing and more affluent global population. However this focus on addressing food availability ignores the far more nuanced issues facing food insecurity and the fact that food security challenges are highly context specific and vary significantly between low to high-income countries.As a result is important to briefly consider food security challenges 

Raising animals for meat directly pollutes the air and water, and degrades land. The environmental impact of companies invested in animal agriculture is most directly experienced by the economically exploited and racially minoritized communities that live near factory farms. 

the horrors animals face on factory farms every single day is mind boggling, the worst abuses of innocent animals who live painful lives—suffering from extreme overgrowth, crippling injuries, and frightening deaths etc.

Hence the laudable intervention of EA organizations/NGO like gfi which is a commendable step and initiative towards Nonhuman animals right, food sustainability in Europe through Production of plant-based and cell-based animal product alternatives.

https://gfieurope.org/about/

Going by all these background, however ,

how healthy? How safe are these for human consumption? 

Won't it be eventually laced with controversies ,litigations like we had and still having in the case of GMOs/GEs over peoples concern and apprehension on its safety for Human consumption base on medical / health reports to this effect ,having observed that there are some level of similarities in the modus operandi of the research works ,processes ,procedure and preliminary production 

GMO/GE BACKGROUND 

Genetic modification is a special set of gene technology that alters the genetic machinery of such living organisms as animals, plants or microorganisms.

Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology and the resulting organism is said to be ‘Genetically modified (GM)’‘Genetically engineered’ or ‘Transgenic’. The principal transgenic crops grown commercially in field are herbicide and insecticide resistant soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. Other crops grown commercially and/or field-tested are sweet potato resistant to a virus that could destroy most of the African harvest, rice with increased iron and vitamins that may alleviate chronic malnutrition in Asian countries and a variety of plants that are able to survive weather extremes. There are bananas that produce human vaccines against infectious diseases such as hepatitis B, fish that mature more quickly, fruit and nut trees that yield years earlier and plants that produce new plastics with unique properties. Technologies for genetically modifying foods offer dramatic promise for meeting some areas of greatest challenge for the 21st century. Like all new technologies, they also pose some risks, both known and unknown. Controversies and public concern surrounding GM foods and crops commonly focus on human and environmental safety, labelling and consumer choice, intellectual property rights, ethics, food security, poverty reduction and environmental conservation.

These are silver linens of GMO/ GE foods back in the days! it's early days, several decades ago but can same be said again now going by various medical reports linking it to some human health challenges 

Some effects and health risks posed by genetic engineering

According to FDA(Food and Drug  Administration) :

1. Toxicity

Genetically engineered foods are inherently unstable. Each insertion of a novel gene, and the accompanying “cassette” of promoters, antibiotic marker systems and vectors, is random. GE food producers simply do not know where their genetic “cassette” is being inserted in the food, nor do they know enough about the genetic/chemical makeup of foods to establish a “safe” place for such insertions. As a result, each gene insertion into a food amounts to playing food safety “roulette,” with the companies hoping that the new genetic material does not destabilize a safe food and make it hazardous.Each genetic insertion creates the added possibility that formerly nontoxic elements in the food could become toxic.

FDA was well aware of the “genetic instability” problem prior to establishing their no-testing policy.  FDA scientists warned that this problem could create dangerous toxins in food and was a significant health risk.The scientists specifically warned that the genetic engineering of foods could result in “increased levels of known naturally occurring toxicants, appearance of new, not previously identified toxicants, [and] increased capability of concentrating toxic substances from the environment (e.g., pesticides or heavy metals).”  These same FDA scientists recommended that long term toxicological tests be required prior to the marketing of GE foods.  FDA officials also were aware that safety testing on the first genetically engineered food, the Calgene Flavr Savr tomato, had shown that consumption of this product resulted in stomach lesions in laboratory rats.

FDA’s response to the potential toxicity problem with genetically engineered foods was to ignore it. They disregarded their own scientists, the clear scientific evidence and the deaths and illnesses already attributed to this problem.The agency refused to require pre-market toxicological testing for GE foods or any toxicity monitoring.  FDA made these decisions with no scientific basis and without public notice and comment or independent scientific review. The agency’s actions can only be seen as a shameful acquiescence to industry pressure and a complete abandonment of its responsibility to assure food safety.

2. Allergic Reactions

The genetic engineering of food creates two separate and serious health risks involving allergenicity.The first is that genetic engineering can transfer allergens from foods to which people know they are allergic, to foods that they think are safe.  This risk is not hypothetical. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when a gene from a Brazil nut was engineered into soybeans, people allergic to nuts had serious reactions to the engineered product. At least one food, a Pioneer Hi-Bred International soybean, was abandoned because of this problem. Without labeling, people with known food allergies have no way of avoiding the potentially serious health consequences of eating GE foods containing hidden allergenic material.

There is another allergy risk associated with GE foods.These foods could be creating thousands of different and new allergic responses.  Each genetic “cassette” being engineered into foods contains a number of novel proteins (in the form of altered genes, bacteria, viruses, promoters, marker systems, and vectors) which have never been part of the human diet. Each of these numerous novel proteins could create an allergic response in some consumers.  The FDA was also well aware of this new and potentially massive allergenicity problem.  The agency’s scientists repeatedly warned that genetic engineering could “produce a new protein allergen.”

Once again the agency’s own scientists urged long-term testing.  However, the FDA again ignored its own scientists. Because these foods were allowed to be marketed without mandatory testing for this kind of allergenicity, millions of unsuspecting consumers have continuously been exposed to a potentially serious health risk.  This FDA action is especially negligent in that the potential consequences of food allergies can include sudden death, and the most significantly affected population is children.

3. Antibiotic Resistance

Another hidden risk of GE foods is that they could make disease-causing bacteria resistant to current antibiotics, resulting in a significant increase in the spread of infections and diseases in the human population.  Virtually all genetically engineered foods contain “antibiotic resistance markers” which help the producers identify whether the new genetic material has actually been transferred into the host food.  FDA’s large-scale introduction of these antibiotic marker genes into the food supply could render important antibiotics useless in fighting human diseases.  For example, a genetically engineered maize plant from Novartis includes an ampicillin-resistance gene.  Ampicillin is a valuable antibiotic used to treat a variety of infections in people and animals.  A number of European countries, including Britain, refused to permit the Novartis Bt corn to be grown, due to health concerns that the ampicillin resistance gene could move from the corn into bacteria in the food chain, making ampicillin far less effective in fighting a wide range of bacterial infections.

Again, FDA officials have ignored their own scientists’ concerns over the antibiotic resistance problem. Meanwhile, the British Medical Association (BMA) addressed this problem in its own study of GE foods. The BMA’s conclusion was unequivocal: “There should be a ban on the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GM food, as the risk to human health from antibiotic resistance developing in microorganisms is one of the major public health threats that will be faced in the 21st century.”

4. Immuno-suppression

The well-respected British medical journal, The Lancet, published an important study conducted by Drs. Arpad Pusztai and Stanley W.B. Ewen under a grant from the Scottish government. The study examined the effect on rats of the consumption of potatoes genetically engineered to contain the biopesticide Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.). Thescientists found that the rats consuming geneticallyaltered potatoes showed significant detrimentaleffects on organ development, body metabolism, and immune function.

The biotechnology industry launched a major attack on Dr. Pusztai and his study. However, they have as of yet not produced a single study of their own to refute his findings.  Moreover, twenty-two leading scientists recently declared that animal test results linking genetically engineered foods to immuno-suppression are valid.

5. Cancer

Along with its approval of GE foods, the FDA in 1993 also approved the use of genetically engineered recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), used to induce dairy cows to produce more milk.  At the time the FDA assured consumers that the milk was safe. Since then, however, regulatory bodies in both Canada and Europe have rejected the drug, citing numerous animal and human health concerns.  Perhaps of most immediate concern for consumers is that research shows that the levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are increased in dairy products produced from cows treated with rBGH. The Canadians and Europeans further found that the FDA had completely failed to consider a study which showed that the increased IGF-1 in rBGH milk could survive digestion and make its way into the intestines and blood streams of consumers.  These findings are significant because numerous studies now demonstrate that IGF-1 is an important factor in the growth of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.

6. Loss of Nutrition

Genetic engineering can also alter the nutritional value of food. In 1992, the FDA’s Divisions of Food Chemistry & Technology and Food Contaminants Chemistry examined the problem of nutrient loss in GE foods.The scientists involved specifically warned the agency that the genetic engineering of foods could result in “undesirable alteration in the level of nutrients” of such foods. They further noted that these nutritional changes “may escape breeders’ attention unless genetically engineered plants are evaluated specifically for these changes.” Once again, the FDA ignored findings by their own scientists and never subjected the foods to mandatory government testing of any sort.

 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Center for Food Safety | GE Food & Your Health | |

https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/311/ge-foods/ge-food-and-your-health

These are some major fallout about the safety, environmental and ecological risks and health hazards involved with GMO/GE that humanity is still battling as I prepare this piece , if these , then apprehension, fear, doubt concerns for cell - based plant and animal - base cell production, drawing from experiences 

Once bitten twice shy !

 

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS 

Cell-cultured and plant-based alternatives  is a relatively new practice still under research, which means the long-term effects / outcome on health and safety are not yet clear.

Therefore serious caution is required in this regard .Gfi and other related organizations should not be in a hurry to be officially out rather engage in more painstaking research on health,safety and ethics of these laudable ingenious initiative.

There is the need to be more careful,most cautious , and time - delay in rushing to the finish line .dotting all the i's and crossing all the t"s in a bid to get the best job done is key ,why? Because health is wealth and health is life .As this project revolves around Human health and life, so that while trying to solve a problem ,you'll not end up creating a monster .

Current testing methods being used in biotech companies etc appears to be inadequate bearing in mind the aforementioned issues with GMOs/GEs

This project should be subjected to more thorough, rigorous and painstaking research processes ,

It needs to be emphasized here that Gfi and other related EA organization are not for-profit NGO  to my understanding because  organizations in EA cannot and would not compare themselves with the profit lead initiative which is largely business oriented ,capitalism in nature and therefore their goals are different, far apart and almost opposite , that is why they are EA and that speaks for itself , and say it all ,you cannot work and the same template .

Till date there are still growing concerns, issues and controversies around GMOs/GEs food safety health status , such shouldn't be the case for these if appropriate measures are taken especially in the area of adequate research funding and impact assessment report 

 

Open Philanthropy should continue to show leadership by providing adequate funds and encourage more EA organizations to be part of these critical research area for meat/protein sustainability and nonhuman animals welfare.

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