The promise of biotechnology, especially as it relates to food, is about shared responsibility and trust. Merging healthful eating with medicines in our foods is part of the promise of biotechnology and food-based products that may have medicinal capacity. Biotechnology and agriculture also offer new ways to make vaccines, more cheaply, more effectively, and with greater capacity, actually growing medicines, or “pharming.” Agriculture and health have always been linked, and a new relationship is evolving requiring interdisciplinary approaches and new thinking. There is also the need to share responsibility for safety and for the accountability of the progresses. Promises regarding agricultural biotechnology must be realistic and objective and must be evaluated with an eye to political and moral and must be kept throughout the whole chain from producers to consumers.
How do we assure that the public understands what the risks and benefits? We cannot assure them until we ourselves understand the risks to human health, especially that of our children, and to the environment. Until we do, we must at least provide objective and creditable information. We have to educate people keeping in mind cultural aspect to food. Rituals and traditions are not to be trifled with when we talk about genetically modifying food.
If the consumers of genetically modified foods don’t trust it, they won’t buy it no matter what health claims are made and even delivered. Trust in the regulatory agencies is generally strong where medicines are concerned, but not so much for genetically modified foods. Only transparency can help, even if it means to address problems such as the Starlink™ corn. Producers must be sure that they can sell their products and they must be trusted by the public that the food they produce is safe.
The current model for competitive research funding in the United States is primarily single-principal-investigator grants in a single discipline, but new approaches to the relationships between plants and human health will require collaboration among multiple investigators across several disciplines. At present, funding for this kind of work is rather limited. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) competitive grants are generally too small to fund multiple-investigator projects of this type. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine funds important work related to this topic, but its scope and funding base are limited. If agriculture is to remain viable in the United States, and if medicine is to take full advantage of our knowledge-base in plants and nutrition and their role in the prevention of disease as well as cure, we need to define a new paradigm for funding this interdisciplinary work.
Pasteurized egg products have an excellent safety history. Shell eggs can be pasteurized to provide a safe alternative for foods made with raw or minimally cooked eggs. Closely coupling egg production and breaking results in very high-quality raw material for processing. Pre-cooked egg entrees provide safe high-quality alternatives to using shell eggs
Industry will continue to play a valuable role in developing healthy, effective, and safe ingredients, and in making new functional foods available to the consumer. These contributions fall into four major categories: innovation, safety, credibility, and marketing and business development / management, As new ingredients and products are developed, consumer and ingredient companies will provide increased credibility through their consumer brands, and increasingly through their ingredient brands which will stand for their commitment to healthy, good-tasting, safe, and effective products.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 created a new, and sometimes controversial, industry based on diet and health. Functional foods and nutraceuticals are foods or ingredients that are perceived by the consumer to be beneficial to health. The functional food industry has shown meteoric growth over the past several years, and is currently estimated at around $18 billion in annual revenues. However, major challenges remain. Early entrants to the nutraceuticals market relied heavily on advertising to gain market share, without strong evidence of product efficacy. Only in recent years, with the involvement of larger and more sophisticated companies, have science and proven efficacy brought broader support.
The Mayo Clinic is engaged in an aggressive effort to prepare the staff and the allied healthcare for changes in medicine, with genomics and medical genomics becoming a central part of the therapies that we will offer. The need for integration of the new genomics information, new nutraceuticals information and foods-for-health information towards a more comprehensive understanding of health and of disease is an important challenge for all of us.
In regard to the public’s health, agriculture and the prepared-food industry have both a significant responsibility and a significant opportunity. New partnerships must be developed to identify the best business- and best health-promoting opportunities. And partnerships are needed to transform public-opinion and consumer purchasing patterns. Food is pharmacologically active, and this pharmacologic activity is of great public concern.
The food industry provides a key link between agriculture and health, and is an important contributor to public health. Direct and indirect communications are necessary in order to reach consumers with public-health messages.. We must work to develop and maintain trust among the government officials, healthcare professionals, and food-industry representatives in order to maximize positive public-health messages.