Two years ago, a woman in a classroom with me muttered “isn’t that a good thing?” about the ban on the cultivation and importation of most genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the European Union (EU), “it protects EU citizens, right?” “Nope, the ban on GMOs merely allows the EU to act as an autonomous region through its politics of food security. The EU set up the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in part for food security, and the ban on GMOs is but an excuse to ban foreign imports and prevent dependency on foreign seed manufacturers in order to maintain the EU’s agricultural self-sufficiency,” my professor for my course on the development and politics of the EU responded.
Recently, concerns were raised about the potential risks of dietary double stranded RNA (dsRNA) and microRNA (miRNA) molecules silencing human genes, after research by Zhang et al. showed the presence of plant miRNA in human blood plasma, as well as providing evidence that this plant miRNA enters the system by dietary uptake in mice. The group then demonstrated that this plant miRNA could silence genes in the mice, leading other researchers to separately raise concerns that diets consisting of genetically modified organisms could lead to the uptake of novel dsRNA molecules that could silence human genes. Gene-silencing by RNA interference, or RNAi, typically occurs by way of short sequences of RNA which bind to a target messenger RNA sequence (mRNA) and inhibit it, either signaling the mRNA for deletion or inhibiting its expression. This occurs through perfect or near-perfect base pairing of the sequence to a short segment on the mRNA strand.