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As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, the US is faced with the overwhelming task of protecting its citizens from harm such as threats on the supply of food. Indeed, this task is so overwhelming that the government might be on the edge of a crisis. The government is faced with the need to supply sufficient and affordable food to feed US inhabitants, and at the same protect the public from chemicals and pathogens that attack the supply of food. "This essay seeks to discuss the key areas of vital concern to the struggle by the government to provide adequate and safe nutrition and food, and how the US can protect its supply of food" (Edelstein 34).
Food safety involves the pursuit of wholesome, pure, uncontaminated, and clean food that is suitable for human consumption. Safe food is defined as food, which will not in any way result in illness when consumed or hours after consumption. Therefore, food that is considered safe should not result in a food borne disease (Edelstein 34).
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Physical, chemical, and biological hazards can threaten the safety of food. The most common threat to the safety of food is caused by biological hazards. Such hazards have germs that can cause diseases by either intoxicating or infecting food. When food is infected with these germs, it can rapidly increase the mortality and morbidity rates (Edelstein 34).
A majority of food infection cases come from infections by bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, and viruses referred to as Calicicivirus (Fischetti). These pathogens can be protected through active packaging whereby they are detected by small windows located on the packaging, such as the plastic jar used to contain peanut butter or the cellophane that wraps meat. The active packages contain antibodies which attack the metabolites and enzymes that are produced by bacteria or viruses. Moreover, active packaging can use biosensors which can detect any change in temperature or the level of PH (Fischetti).
Genetically modified foods and biotechnology
Biotechnology and genetically modified food are a viable option for protecting the supply of food in the US. Genetically modified foods use the gene-splicing methods which enables scientists to add genes into foods so as to take care of environmental effects such as insect infestation, diseases, and drought. By modifying foods, the production of food will increase and improving the content of vital nutrients. Biotechnology has improved the traditional techniques of hybridization that are fraught with inefficiency and are time consuming. In addition, genetic modification eliminates the unwanted traits from food, and this increases the production of food. Through gene replacement, genetic modification has enabled scientists to add the desirable features of food and eliminate the unwanted characteristics (Edelstein 34).
Genetic modification presents a potentially improved means to feed the American population and eradicate the potentially harmful side effects of fertilizer and pesticide residue. Food that is genetically modified can resist pests, and this saves farmers the cost of pesticides. Moreover, genetically modified food can benefit the environment because the chemicals in pesticides will not be released into the ground. Pest resistance food is also cheaper because it reduces the loss that could be sustained from an insect invasion (Whitman).
Genetic modification has also facilitated the production of herbicide-resistant crops. The herbicides that have been in use can kill weeds, but can also destroy food crops. This means that the production of herbicide-resistant crops, the amount of chemicals required will also reduce (Whitman).
According to the Food and Drug Administration agency in the US has analyzed and approved over 50 genetically modified foods including tomatoes, sweet corn, sugar beets, squash, soybeans, potatoes, papayas, and cotton seed oils. At the moment, biologists are trying to produce foods that are genetically modified to resist diseases caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Moreover, a number of plants have been modified to stand cold weather; this is crucial as it will allow enable plants to continue growing during winter. If these inventions were to be applied in mass, then the food supply will increase rapidly (Whitman).
Genetic modification has also taken care of malnutrition by adding nutrients to crops. For instance the golden rice produced through genetic modification, contains nutrients such as beta-carotene that can prevent blindness (Whitman).
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Even though, biotechnology and genetic modification of food may provide the US with health advantages and environmentally sustainable foods, those opposed to this technology argue that it can result in food integrity and safety issues, potential illness, and increased allergies. The critics argue that even though, this technology will boost the supply of food, the long-term effects are still not known (Edelstein 34).
Worldwide, nations are trying to cope with the concerns of critics, whereas they are still faced with the heightened demand for food. Numerous nations have banned GM foods as a result of local agricultural concerns. Nevertheless, genetic modification still remains the viable option for sustaining the demand for food (Whitman).
Bioterrorism and Agro-terrorism
Bioterrorism and agro-terrorism pose a serious threat to the supply of food in the US. This entails the intentional poisoning or adulteration of food to cause death or illness. In as much as acts of aggression against the supply of food in the US are not new, the likelihood of such acts is high, and this might threaten the food supply. Therefore, the government put up measures to take care of such an event if it were to happen (Edelstein 34).
Regardless of whether the supply of food is threatened by pathogens, environmental factors, bioterrorism, or agroterrorism, the government of the US should carry out a careful analysis and assessment of the processes and programs that will ensure there is a sustainable and sufficient supply of food. This essay has discussed some of the ways that the US can protect its food supply, especially the role of active packaging, biotechnology and genetically modified foods.