Updated on 7 June 2012
The reported benefits of the new biotechnologies span from reducing environmental damage to improvements in animal welfare, farm productivity, product quality, and human health but there seems to be hesitancy in adoption of such technologies by farmers and food companies.
Biofortification of staple crops through modern biotechnology can potentially help in alleviating malnutrition in developing countries. Several genetically modified crops, including rice, potatoes, oil seeds, and cassava, with elevated levels of essential nutrients; reduced levels of anti-nutritional factors; and increased levels of factors that influence bioavailability and utilization of essential nutrients are advancing through field trial stage and regulatory processes towards commercialization. The successful introduction of the biofortified crops would have a significant impact in reducing malnutrition and the risk of chronic disease in developing countries.
Consumers and regulation
An Australian study on consumer attitudes towards biotechnology has shown the consumers to have mixed, but on average, less positive attitude toward biotechnology. Many consumers in the US and elsewhere are unaware of the widespread use of biotechnology, the potential advantages of the genetic techniques, and the safety and regulatory procedures used before a product is approved for commercial use. The overall tone of public attitude towards novel food technologies is one of wariness, unease, uncertainty, and sometimes outright negativity.
There is no regulatory scheme for functional food per se, but functional food products are clearly subject to most of the federal regulations. If a functional food product is marketed for a therapeutic purpose (for instance, to treat a disease), it will be subject to regulation as a "drug." If a product is subject to regulation as a "food," it may be further classified as a conventional food, dietary supplement, food for special dietary use, or medical food, depending upon its intended use.