Food choices for the millennium

Even something as basic as food has not escaped scientific intervention in the persistent quest to meet the demands for technologically advanced products and services. The food industry is under scrutiny over recent health scares regarding Genetically Modified (GM) foods and the role that science plays in its manufacture.

Food manufacture and farming have long been established in servicing the basic needs of all communities and populations. The fundamentals of food biotechnology have been applied for thousands of years; crop variation, processing of raw foods (eg. brewing, fermentation) and the domestication of animals. As with most food industries, financial considerations involving minimum expenditure correlated with maximum production of superior quality crops is not an issue that is likely to be discarded. Crops can be made to be herbicide, drought, disease or pesticide-resistant. They can also be made to have an increased shelf life in addition to boosting vitamin content or to have a reduced fat content.

However, the impact of long-term consumption has not yet been determined and some leading scientific experts have associated the increased incidence of a number of health problems with GM crops. These can include food allergies, food intolerances, antibiotic resitance and quite possibly some of the physiological abnormalities or dysfunction observed, especially in children. Organic foods and the new ‘superfoods’ also referred to as functional foods are increasing in popularity. Functional foods or nutraceuticals are foods that have a whole range of ingredients in what are thought to be of therapeutic value.

Published in The Post Newspaper (latter the African Echo: April 2000 page 13.logo