A Higher Authority on GMOs

Readers are well aware of the various issues surrounding consumers' acceptance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their foods, but a new Zogby International poll released by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology casts a different light on acceptance.

The debate over genetically engineering food and animals has heretofore centered primarily around benefits and risks, but many Americans, according to the poll, have ethical or religious views that significantly affect their opinions of this new technology. Questioned specifically about their own religious or moral views regarding agricultural biotechnology, a majority of Christians (Protestants, born-again Christians and Catholics) and a plurality of Muslims voiced opposition to moving genes from one species or organism to put into another. As reported by the poll, Jews were the only religious group that had a majority in support of the technology.

Some 57% of Protestants (62% of Evangelicals) were found to oppose the technology based on religious or ethical views, the poll reported, while 37% expressed support. Catholics' responses were slightly more evenly divided, with 52% opposing and 42% favoring genetic engineering. Muslims also were split rather closely on the issue, with 46% of them opposing the technology and 32% supporting it. Those of the Jewish faith were, by far, the most supportive, as 55% favored and 35% opposed the technology.

Also, a majority in all religious groups believe humans should use their knowledge to improve the lives of other humans, according to the poll, released as part of a panel discussion hosted by the Initiative titled “Genetically Modifying Food: Playing God or Doing God's Work?”

Negative Energy

Energy drinks have been one of the hottest growing categories in recent years, but a recommendation out of Sweden could do something to curb that appeal.

Sweden's National Food Administration has determined that so-called “energy” drinks should not be mixed with alcohol or used as thirst quenchers. Swedish newspapers have reported three deaths possibly linked to drinking the popular beverage, which contains high doses of caffeine and taurine.

Doctors have cautioned that the high doses of caffeine cause heart palpitations, breathing problems and even death. Combining these drinks with coffee “seems” to worsen the effects, according to one doctor.

About 70 energy drinks are currently available on the Swedish market, and they contain higher amounts of caffeine or taurine than traditional beverages. Reports indicate two people died after mixing the energy drinks with alcohol, while a third died of kidney failure after exercising and consuming the drinks.

The NFA said last year that no evidence suggested taurine was harmful but added that no proof indicated it was safe for consumption in high doses over long periods of time.

Meanwhile, a new entrant is about to emerge in the energy drink market. Snapple is set to debut Venom, a Citrus-and-juniper-berry flavored beverage said to pack a punch equivalent to a cup of coffee in a mere 8.4 ounces.