Affiliation: Centre of Genomics and Policy, Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, McGill University 740 Dr. Penfield Avenue, Room 5209, Montreal (Quebec) Canada.
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.