For a number of years now, the United States has been the largest importer of coffee beans in the world. This comes as no surprise as over 50% of adults in the country consume at least one cup of coffee per day. For the individuals that comprise of this number, coffee is what makes them run: fuel in the morning, midday pick-me-up, stimulant for the late night grind. Thankfully, coffee isn’t just about temporary energy boost. It does come with plenty of health benefits, too.
Second only to oil, coffee is the most widely traded commodity in the world. The global demand comes in staggering numbers, yet exporting countries are struggling to keep up. A study conducted by London’s Royal Botanic Gardens suggest that robusta and other coffee farms in Africa may be destroyed by 2080, and wild arabica – the best-loved species of coffee – could be extinct in as little as four years, 2020. Contributing to this economic imbalance are environmental factors, such as rust (a fungus that kills coffee crops) and drought.
In recent years, a group of scientists have successfully sequenced the coffee genome for the first time. This breakthrough allows them to determine the genetic makeup of coffee, which basically opens the door for genetic engineering. Many argue that this development would help save the beloved coffee crops. An industry consultant, Andrew Hetzel, who also leads training courses for the Coffee Quality Institute, says the genetic engineering of coffee does not only address production and pest resistance, but it also paves the way for taste and overall quality alteration.
As expected, this development was met with much objection from concerned groups and consumers. As is also expected, arguments from different sides of the aisles, such as those of Earth Open Source’s and GMO Answers’, respectively, offer polarizing views on the subject.
Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill requiring food manufacturers to label their products containing genetically modified ingredients. This label will appear as a text label, an icon or a smartphone-readable electronic code. It essentially nullifies a Vermont labeling law that took effect last month. Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, and Representative Peter Welch argued that the new law falls short on measures, as compared to the Vermont’s strong GMO labeling laws.
While scientists, consumerists, public officials and other groups argue, there is no denying the possibility that we will soon be ingesting genetically modified coffee. Will you still be drinking this beverage?