The researchers of John Inns Center of Norwich, England, have modified the genome of tomatoes to block the production of a certain enzyme, causing provitamin D3 to accumulate in the plants. When these are exposed to ultraviolet light, provitamin D3 is transformed into vitamin D. Now, a single tomato can provide around 20% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. GMO foods like this and others have just been legalized in the UK.
The food "Brexit".
Until now, growing and marketing these products was almost impossible due to the European Union's restrictions on GMO foods. Since Brexit, however, the United Kingdom has taken a completely different path.
The UK government has introduced legislation to facilitate the research and cultivation of genetically modified plants, with the stated aim of having as early as next year genetically modified products on supermarket shelves.
GMO foods, possible benefits and risks
Of course, innovations "cleared" by UK laws could bring benefits to farmers, consumers and even the environment. In addition to creating more nutritious foods, gene editing can increase agricultural production in many ways. It may reduce the use of insecticides and fertilizers, may produce crops more resistant to climate change, and other benefits still under study.
Curiously, the tomato is the most studied vegetable: in addition to the one in the English study, there is a "purple" one approved last year by the FDA after 10 years of experimentation and observations. Contains anthocyanins in quantity, and was born to fight cancer. In Cambridge, however, they have been ready for 8 years also a potato with a more solid structure, which does not "dent" and therefore rots less.
At the same time, the gene-editing technique and the advent of GMO foods still raise concerns about the long-term effects on humans. Around a third of British adults believe GM food is unsafe.
The issues related to the possible export, trade and labeling of these genetically modified products must also be considered, especially within the European single market.
However you think, the legalization of GMO foods in the UK is a historical fact (here you can read the text of the law on the British Parliament website). Scientists and researchers have a vital role in making the public understand the benefits of gene editing (and its safety). If they can demonstrate that using these techniques can lead to healthier and more sustainable products, they will overcome negative perceptions.
A not negligible factor, considering that the EU is also planning to liberalize the rules on GMO foods. The bill is scheduled for mid-2023: and you? What will you do? Will you put them on the table, will you refuse or will you wait a bit to see how it goes?
Let us know on the Futuro Prossimo social channels.