Food Genomics and the Information Society: Synergies for Global Health
Affiliation: Centre of Genomics and Policy, Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, McGill University 740 Dr. Penfield Avenue, Room 5209, Montreal (Quebec) Canada.
Keywords: Food genomics, global health, information food, information society, intergenerational equity, nutritional
epigenetics, personalized nutrition.
This article examines the emerging discipline of food genomics to probe the nature and transmission
mechanism of epigenetic changes to the genome related to nutrition, and its impact on policy specifically, and the ethics in
21st century human societies more broadly. The overarching aim is to make recommendations for global health policy that
will benefit from advances in personalized genomics knowledge in the context of food. The discussion explores the
challenging possibility of intergenerational transfer and retention of environmental signals and imprints on the genome. In
addition, the article draws on the socio-ethical aspects of making decisions about how to use that information in order to
benefit present and future generations equitably. Personalized nutrition genomics could benefit from unique epigenetic
signatures of individuals for the purposes of personalized dietary interventions. An epigenetic information society will
face obvious social choices between a policy of laissez-faire versus a policy of intervention and rehabilitation in global
health. Some will also undoubtedly argue that the inevitability of natural selection invariably points to not intervening (too
much, if at all) in such a transgenerational way (if we can help it) as the genome will adapt to any viable environmental
stress through its inherent plasticity, regardless of the resulting social conditions through which it materializes. The article
concludes that ultimately, global health will benefit from promoting appropriate governance of the biological
informational value of foods together with strong educational programs for the public.
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