Do we really know where our food comes from?
There is continuing controversy over the use of genetically modified (GM) food products for both humans and animals. There are those who believe that GM food is a necessary response to the demands of a growing world population and those who worry about the risks that may result from human intervention in natural products.
It remains a hot topic, unaffected by the current recession. Italian consumers have a clear stance, overwhelmingly preferring GM-free foods, even though GM foods are generally cheaper.
The same dynamic can be seen in the market for organic products, which is growing steadily despite the higher cost of these products.
It is widely believed that GM products are not sold in Italy, but this belief is erroneous. Italy is required to conform to complex European standards, which do not forbid the use of GM products and which allow the cultivation of certain GM varieties of corn and potatoes.
A decree – which is periodically lobbied against by those in favour of GM products – was passed in Italy in 2013, banning the cultivation of this GM corn and establishing that GM potatoes are not to be used as food, although they may be used for the production of alcohol and starch.
So although food policy in Italy may reassure those who want the cultivation of GM products in Italy to be banned, it does not solve the problem of animal feed or imported products, which are not required to be GM-free. In addition, there is no requirement for food labels to show information on the animal feed used. This means that we cannot know if the meat or dairy products that we eat come from animals fed on GM products.
The only certainties for consumers come from controls of production chains, which record document and trace all the stages and elements of the production process, clarifying the origin of the product.