GMO’s at a Corporate Scale
Genetic modification is the direct alteration of an organism’s genetic material using biotechnology. Currently, this form of genetic modification is a rapidly developing field because of the benefits it provides the environment and mankind. However, with GMOs on the rise a great deal of controversy has been sparked. While GMOs prove to be beneficial in some cases, they do have they’re drawbacks. All around the world people are beginning to protest against GMOs and the giant corporations which develop them. In this essay, we will thoroughly explore the topic of GMOs covering both sides of the great controversy of how they are beneficial and what is there potential harm. In many cases GMOs prove to be useful there is too much power in the hands of Biotech companies who develop GMOs for the use and consumption of the public and have no care for the interests of the citizens. These corporations require greater regulation.
GMOs are beneficial in their ability to create more efficient use of land and give a larger yield of crops. A rapidly growing population causes the agricultural marketplace to develop new genetically engineered crops, seeds, and other systems, to help farmers have a greater yield so they can feed the world’s population. Researchers say that by 2050 there will need to be an expected 69 percent increase in food production to feed the worlds growing population (Iqbal) this is one of the reasons why farmers have looked to genetic modification. GMOs provide farmers with a higher yield of crops so that they may support the needs of the population. Moreover, on the conservational standpoint, GMOs help farmers avoid the risk of harming the environment. GMOs crops have revolutionized farming practices by giving plants natural resistance to destructive pests and diseases (Dale). Ultimately this means that farmers use less herbicides and other pesticides on their land which can be harmful to the environment. Lastly, another major benefit of GMOs is their ability to adjust the nutritional value in foods. This ability has helped many people in Lesser Developed Countries receive the supplements they need to survive. For example, golden rice is a GMO that has improved nutritional content so that the population in some LCDs may receive vitamin A (Portykus). This has prevented millions of people form dying of vitamin A deficiency.
Although GMOs provide a great deal of benefits, the topics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that create debate cannot be ignored. The heart of this controversy is not only focused on the GMOs themselves but on the companies who produce them as well. One of the benefits of GMOs is that they help farmers avoid the risk of harming the environment. However, many contest that GMOs do in fact harm the environment. For instance, Green Peace a non-profit environmental organization believes that GMOs should not be released into the environment since there is not an adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health. Although very little research has been found that proves GMOs to in fact harm human health this has not stopped researches from considering possible long-term effects that we have yet to see (Ansari).
Others believe GMOs to be safe to the environment and human health because these are natural genes but only transferred into a foreign organism. Monsanto a leading corporation in GMO production states that [they] place the highest priority on the safety of [their] products and conduct rigorous and comprehensive testing on each¦.with no credible evidence of harm to humans or animals. Although corporations reassure us that the use of GMOs they produce are harmless there has been evidence of GMOs harming animals and the environment. For example, when GMO Bt corn was released the monarch butterfly was nearly driven to extinction (Lunquist). This is an example of GMOs not being closely regulated and as consequence having a dangerous impact on an animal important to our ecosystem. Furthermore, researchers believe GM crops to have the potential to cross-pollinate with related species to form novel genetic varieties that could become new weeds or pests (Lunquist). This is a precaution we must take against making plants naturally resistant to pests and diseases. The possibility of making so called super weeds is not impossible and must be dealt with carefully.
One of the greatest concerns of GMOs come from the citizens. People have the right to know what they are consuming. In the United States food manufacturers and biotech companies are not required to label GMO containing foods (Kling). However, 64 nations in the world require mandatory labeling of GMOs up to a certain percentage (Kling). For instance, Britain requires food to be labeled as GMO containing at a threshold of 0.9% GMO containment (Kling). The fact that the United States does not make labeling mandatory is unfair to individuals who have restrictions in their diet due to religion or personal morals. For example, many religions exempt pork and other meats form ones diet but how are these individuals supposed to know not to eat food genetically modified with pig DNA if it is not labeled. In the United States food manufacturers and biotech companies that create these GMOs do not want to label them because they think it will lead to fear-driven abandonment of any food with a GM label (Kling). In other words, these corporations refuse to label GMO containing products because they fear losing money, they do not have enough interest in the needs of the people.
There are nearly a handful of huge corporations that have an overwhelming quantity of power over the United States food supply. These corporations exert far more control and influence in what we eat from what we buy at the grocery store than anyone else. Although we may think we have the freedom to shop at the grocery store, among a wide variety of distributed food and pick out our favorite brands. In reality, all of those brands are owned by only a handful of corporations that chose to not label any of their GMO containing products. Although the United States identifies itself to having a Capitalist system, based off competitive markets, it does not live up to its promise. Considering the lacking level of competition in the food industry, these few corporations have a considerable amount of power in what goes into our food.
Do we really want large corporations having so much influence when their real interests do not serve citizens? Corporations are in the business to make profit, they do not share loyalty to Americans but have a greater responsibility to their shareholders. Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology company, is an example of one of these overly powerful corporations. Monsanto is a corporate seed company that sells genetically modified seeds to farmers. Monsanto is also one of the many biotech companies that opposes mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods on the basis that it could imply that the GE products are inferior to non-GE products (Murphy). Monsanto is also perceived as an overbearing malicious biotech company because it has a long history of lawsuits against farmers who have in the past attempted to harvest and regrow seeds. Since 1997 Monsanto has had over 144 legal claims against U.S. farmers (Moran 3) because of their aggressively enforced seed patents. One way Monsanto boosts their profits is by enabling famers to use seeds taken from the plants that they essentially modified. An example of one of these lawsuits was against a soybean farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman. The story from Biotech Business Week reports that Bowman was sued by Monsanto for reusing their genetically modified soybean seeds that produced plants resistant to herbicides (Frommer Law.). Although the 75-year-old Indiana farmer purchased the seeds legally, Monsanto holds very strict patents over their seeds to ensure farmers will be dependent on rebuying from their corporation. This dependent relationship has caused farmers who wish to better utilize things like herbicides and pesticides to struggle, but gives Monsanto more profit.
Not only is Monsanto one of the largest seed companies in the United States but it also stretches its influence on the rest of the world. Monsanto has an estimated market dominance of over 20 percent of global seed sales and presence in 68 countries around the world (Moran 2). In the United States on the other hand, in 2011 Monsanto’s soybean and cotton crop made them a profit of $110 billion for just the two commodities alone (Moran 4). These numbers show the vast control this one corporation has over the market. This is the same company that sues small scale farmers because of their strict patents and refuses to label GMO containing products. In fact, Monsanto is so strict with their patents they will sue farmers if their genetically engineered crops contaminate their property airborne (Morn 8). They will still sue even if the famer had not intentionally planted the crop but it invaded their property accidently from a nearby farm. A large corporation who sues small scale farmers for events out of their control does not care for the citizen’s interests. Their sole interest is in their profits which they are too scared to risk losing by choosing to label their foods as GMO containing to better serve their consumers citizens.
Although Monsanto has claimed themselves to be focused on empowering farmers while also helping the environment, like any other corporation they are still severely profit driven. Monsanto has required a great deal of wealth that has given them a powerful position in the agricultural and economic marketplace and there are only a handful of other corporations in the exact same position. Together these corporations supply the food for all the United States and even a portion of the world. In the united states these corporations do not undergo enough regulation, system monitoring, and enforcement. They should be enforced to label their foods as containing GMO products.
Moreover the regulation that corporations receive to release GMO products are obviously not strict enough if they have potential to effect the environment or hurt animals like they have in the past in the case of the monarch butterfly. Currently, the regulation of GMOs is divided among three federal agencies in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accountable for monitoring implications GMOs may have on the environment (Lundquist). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is accountable for the commercial uses of GMOs (lundquist). Lastly, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accountable for the use of GM plants and animals in agriculture (Lundquist).
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Dale, Philip J., Belinda Clarke, and Eliana M.G. Fontes. “Potential for the Environmental Impact of Transgenic Crops.” Nature biotechnology 20.6 (2002): 567-74. ProQuest. Web. 1 June 2017.
“Frommer Lawrence & Haug Llp; Bowman v. Monsanto before the U.S. Supreme Court.” Biotech Business Week (2013): 26. ProQuest. Web. 31 May 2017.
Iqbal, Badar Alam. “World Food Scenario: Emerging Trends and Issues.” African Journal of Business Management 4.8 (2010): 1475-9. ProQuest. Web. 2 June 2017.
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Lundquist, Kyndra A. “Unapproved Genetically Modified Corn.” Iowa Law Review 100.2 (2015): 825-51. ProQuest. Web. 1 June 2017.
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Murphy, Laura. “Do Tell: The Case for Mandatory Labeling of GE Foods.” Natural Resources & Environment 28.2 (2013): 14-6. ProQuest. Web. 2 June 2017
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