The Controversy of Genetically Modified Crops
You may know about the emerging field of biotechnology - the medicine, the ethics, the DNA, the Human Genome, etc. But few realize the emergence of its agricultural branch, and the international conflict that has arisen from it. It may apply to you more than you thought, for half of the soybean products and a quarter of the corn you ate in 1999 may have been genetically modified (Kaufman A6). Genetically modified crops (commonly referred to as GMOs) are crops whose characteristics have been altered to produce a favorable trait, whether it be prolonged freshness, a more attractive appearance, or pesticide resistance (Activist 1). Genetic alteration is the act of inserting a gene, which contains specific DNA (usually from another species), into an organism so that it will produce a protein to create a specific trait. Many have argued over the ethical appropriateness of the issue, but this time new concerns come into view. Many consumers all over the world are worried about human safety, environmental preservation, and international trade.
Arguments between the United States and the European Union (EU) have dominated the controversy. And seeing as that the economies of the two systems combined make up about half of the entire world's economy, it is important to try to quell it as soon as possible (External Relations 1). British uncertainty over human safety of GMOs stemmed a ban on all GM production (excluding experimental growth) and on certain GMO imports (U.S. Department of State 1). Its use of the "precautionary principle," which does not allow the full commercialization of GMOs in the EU until they are substantially scientifically proven to be non-harmful, has angered many, especially in the US (Genetically modified government 2). The EU's ban on GMO importation has angered and may greatly harm large GMO exporters such as those in Africa and the US (U.S. Department of State 1). Many countries in Asia and South America are already commercializing GM crops or are a few years away from it (AgBiotech Reporter 5). The most effective solution to this conflict would be the creation of an international research commission made up of members from various countries from both sides. It would do in-depth GMO research and create international standards that all member countries must comply to.
Both sides on this issue have strong arguments, and have reasons to argue. Supporters of bio-engineering argue that it is a new and efficient way of increasing crop production without increasing costs, time, or labor (Ibrahim 2). Plants modified to resist pesticides may be grown in fields where herbicides are sprayed to kill unnecessary weeds and pests, reducing the amount of pesticides needed in production (Marwick 2). Supporters argue that in no way do GM crops have less nutritional value, and that in fact new crops may be modified in the future to...