Economics – Genetically Modified Food Essay
Introduction In this essay, arguments will be presented which agree and disagree with the question that ‘genetically modified crops are the only way to feed the world’. Genetically modified (GM) foods are made from genetically modified organisms (GMO). Examples of genetically modified organisms include animals, plants and bacteria. The genetic makeup of GMOs are further altered by making specific changes to their DNA and this is done by genetic engineering. Developing nations of India and Africa will be explored in their outlooks on the pros and cons of GM crops and will illustrate how this effects demand and supply.
The conclusion will provide a statement which reflects the benefits of GM technology but how care must be taken to ensure the highest level of safety to human and environmental health. In support of genetically modified crops Support for the concept that GM crops are the only way to feed the world take this viewpoint for a number of reasons, one which includes that by increasing the production in supply, the demand for foods will be met by those who are currently experiencing food shortages. Food shortages are an ever increasing problem in third-world countries, including India and Africa.
A major cause of food-shortages in these countries comes from there rapidly expanding populations. The increasing demand for food puts pressure to produce and provide more. For this reason, third-world countries face several agricultural challenges. Mangala Rai, Secretary of the Indian Department of Agricultural Research and Education, expressed that production food of from less land would be achieved only through the widespread use of GM crops. Mr Rai understands there is resistance to this concept however stresses that it will solve the desperate state India is in. (, September 2007).
Although India is reported to be the second largest producer of wheat, in 2006 and 2007 they imported mass amounts of grain to meet the gap between supply and demand. India’s government took action and approved trials in GM cotton crops and this resulted in India surpassing the United States to become the second biggest producer of cotton in 2006 and 2007. (, February 2008). Researchers from University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Bonn in Germany reported results from farm trials conducted in India, that GM cotton crops dramatically increased yields and considerably reduced pesticide use compared with non-GM crops.
( February 2003). After experiencing great success with GM cotton, C. D Mayee, a senior scientist, and chairman for Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board said, ‘India’s first expected GM food crop is brinjal. Field trials of GM brinjal started in August 2007 and is expected to be commercialised by 2009’. ( February 2008). Similar challenges regarding GM crops were experienced with Africa, which we will illustrate next. In 2002 and 2003, many African countries including Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe were affected with a major food crisis.
Unless food aid worth over US $507 million was distributed, it was estimated that 13 million people would suffer extreme starvation by the end of the year. There was initial concern from these countries to accept GM foods from the World Food Programme (WFP); however these countries (excluding Zambia who decided to its satisfaction that GM food aid was not necessary to meet the needs of Zambia’s population and secured non-GM from other sources) national governments elected to accept the GM grain, agreeing that the most important factor to prioritise was the need to alleviate hunger and this outweighed any other concerns.
Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, said, ‘India can become self sufficient in food production by use of biotechnology in food crops’. He went on to further say, ‘The biggest risk associated with this technology in India is not using it’. (, February 2008). In support of the distribution and production of GM crops throughout Africa is biotechnologist Dr. Wynand van der Walt ( February 2003). He said the GM function offers opportunities to ensure food security in Africa and that there is no evidence to suggest that it poses a negative threat to human health or the environment.
Over 3 billion people on all continents consume foods from GM crops and no proven cases suggest their hazardousness. Dr. Wynand van der Walt (February 2003) stated the following: We have high food prices and high food insecurity. We cannot wait for long term policy discussions. The urgency is now and all of us have an obligation to go out and communicate and counter the misinformation we face every day about GM crops. Graph (a) illustrates the relationship between price and foods from GM crops: [pic] Foods from GM crops are less expensive than foods from non-GM crops.
Demand for food is high (D), and supplies of food from GM crops is high (S). Against genetically modified crops Those against the argument that GM crops are the only way to feed the world debate this point of view for a multitude of reasons, some which include the potential negative human and environmental impact. Although certain governments from developing countries like India and Africa support and have agreed to accept foods from GM crops as a way to feed their rapidly growing population, passionate anti-GM activists from these same countries strongly oppose its application and have put pressure on political parties to ban GM technology.
In 2006, a large informal network representing organisations and individuals from more than 15 states of India was formed called “Coalition for GM Free India” (. April 2008). Members of this coalition believe that farmers’ science and knowledge, especially with regard to ecological farming, is the only sustainable way forward for farming in India. Their aim is to raise awareness and educate the general public, the media and civil society groups of the destructiveness of GM crops.
The Coalition organised a meeting in Hyderabad where over 250 people took part to protest against the use of GM in their food, including farmers and consumers who have directly suffered from the GM cotton crops including those who have experienced huge financial losses, allergies while working in GM cotton crop fields and others who have lost their livestock that grazed on GM cotton crops. There has been a huge outcry from the Indian people to their government to cease GM crop trials. In support of the ban against GM foods in India is leading scientist Dr P M Bhargava (, July 2008).
He stated the following: The problem is that no one knows what effect these foods will have on us. In animals, we have a good idea about their possible ill-effects. In science, we collect evidence on the basis of which we make predictions. All our predictions so far are not in favour of GM foods unless they are tested extensively and exhaustively, which they are not today. Experts are crying themselves hoarse; it is for the Indian government to listen. If all our politicians and scientists were committed to their country, not a single GM product would have been permitted in India as of today.
I would say that as of today we do not have reasonably conclusive evidence that GM foods are safe. We should therefore exercise the precautionary principle and ban their use unless incontrovertible evidence regarding their long-term safety is obtained, which would take 10 to 25 years. It is a pity that alternatives to GM crops such as integrated pest management and the use of bio-pesticides, which are cheaper and better, and organic agriculture, are being ignored by our government in spite of the enormous evidence in their favour.
Objection of accepting GM crops was Zambia of Africa which we will point to next. National government officials (NGOs) of Zambia were sceptical in accepting the GM food-aid from the WFP in their time of famine. Though they did ultimately reject the GM food from WFP, they did not do so before carrying out a thorough investigation. An expert delegation was assigned to travel to the United States and the European Union where they met with the biotechnology industry, government food safety officials, academic scientists and NGOs with an interest in and expertise on GM food safety issues.
From these meetings, it was determined that the risks related with the GM maize were greater than Zambia was comfortable with and declined the WFP food-aid. ( October 2004) Although the Zambian government were under enormous pressure to accept GM grain, their stance was supported by several Zambian and regional non-governmental organisations, including Consumers International (CI) and the Zambian Consumer Association (ZACA) which ignited a campaign to press for alternatives food supplies to be made available to the country.
In its campaign, CI lobbied the WFP to explore alternatives for supplying Zambia with non-GM grain from countries where such grain was available. There is very little scientific information regarding the long term health risks derived from GM crops and for this reason, many opinions are formed on the ethical stance that GM food implies. Some of these include the dependence on industrialised nations by developing countries, tampering with nature by mixing genes among species, and labelling of GM crops are not mandatory in some countries, including the United States.
With so much uncertainly associated to GM crops and with retrospective gained regarding the famine threat to Zambia in 2002 and 2003, CI provided some recommendations including (. October 2004): (i) That the WFP and the U. S. Agency for International Development should immediately stop exerting pressure on affected developing country governments and presenting these countries with a misleading scenario of ‘No Choice. ‘ (ii) That the WFP and all donors should provide real choices (i. e. , sources of non-GM food aid) to any country that rejects or restricts GM food aid.
Failure to do so renders the WFP’s long-standing recognition of the “the right to choose” meaningless. The WFP has a duty to actively seek options for providing non-GM foods that are in fact available to countries that prefer the non-GM alternative. (iii) The WFP should put in place additional mechanisms that enable it to respond appropriately to situations where recipient countries impose restrictions on the acceptance of GM food aid. For example, the preferences of recipient countries should be ascertained in advance of a crisis, so that planning could emphasize making the supply of food sources with different characteristics (e.g. , GM/non-GM) roughly match the expected demand. (iv).
Consumer organizations in developing countries should inform themselves on the scientific, economic, trade, ethical and other aspects of the debate over GM foods and crops, so that they may constructively engage with their governments when a national risk analysis on this issue is required. Graph (b) illustrates the relationship between price and foods from non-GM crops: [pic] Foods from non-GM crops are more expensive than foods from non-GM crops. Demand for food is high (D), and supplies of food from non-GM crops is low (S).
Conclusion The production of food from GM crops certainly proven scientifically that it has the capability of solving many of the worlds food-shortage problems as was illustrated in our examples in the developing nations of India and Africa. However to depend on it as being the only way to feed the world would be hasty, especially as there is little data reporting of its long term affects on the human race and the environment. In saying that, to ignore proven potentially beneficial technology would be a careless.
Whilst our advancement in technology is commendable, we must proceed with care to avoid unintentional impairment on human health or the environment. List of References Layton, A, Robinson, T & Tucker, IB 2009, Economics for today, 3rd edn, Cengage Learning Australia, South Melbourne, Victoria. Environmental Graffiti, ‘GM Crops only way for India to feed itself, says Government’, May 2007, viewed 23 September 2009, . Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2009, viewed 17 September 2009, .
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2009, viewed 17 September 2009, . Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education, The Political Saga of GM Crops in India, 2008, viewed 25 September 2009.
Genetically modified crops in India produced greater yields, reduced pesticide use, new study finds, February 2003, viewed 25 September 2009, . Human Genome Project Information, August 2006, viewed 19 September 2009, . International Food Policy Research Institute, Status of Genetically Modified: What is Being Grown and Where, May 2009, viewed 26 September 2009.
May-June 2009, ‘Introduction food crisis in the Americas. (REPORT: FOOD CRISIS)’ NACLA Report on the Americas, vol. 42, no. 3, p. 15(1), viewed 18 September 2009, Business Economics and Theory. Gale. Search me! economics, Gale Document Number: A199854228 Guterman, Lisa, 2000, ‘Scientists leave the lab to defend bioengineered food’ The Chronicle of Higher Education vol. 46, no. 32, p. A29(4), viewed 20 September 2009, Business Economics and Theory. Gale. Search me! economics. Gale Document Number: A61878337 World Food Programme, 2009, viewed 25 September.
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