The great current controversy worldwide is: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), in such dispute are involved consumers, biotechnology companies, governmental regulators, non-governmental organizations and scientists. The controversial key topics related to genetically modified (GM) food are: risk of harm from GM food, labeled GM food, the role of government regulations, the effect of GM crops on the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of GM crops for farmers, including farmers in developing countries, the role of GM crops in feeding the growing world population, and GM crops as part of the industrial agriculture system.

Below are the main pros and cons of GMOs:

ARGUMENTS AGAINST TO GMOS
  • Genes can end up in unexpected places: “Escape of genes” causing contamination in ecosystems, herbicide-resistance genes get into weeds, contamination in GMO free crops.
  • Genes can mutate with harmful effect.gmo-free
  • Transfer of allergenic genes.
  • Transfer of antibiotic resistance: Genes that confer antibiotic resistance are inserted into GMOs as “markers” to indicate that the process of gene transfer has succeeded.
  • Loss of farmers’ access to plant material: Biotechnology research is carried out by the private sector and there are concerns about market dominance in the agricultural sector by a few powerful companies. This could have a negative impact on small-scale farmers all over the world.
  • GMOs increase herbicide use.
  • GMOs do not increase yields; GM crops will not feed the world: The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, “Assessment of the technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable.” They determined that the current GMOs have nothing to offer the goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods, and facilitating social and environmental sustainability.
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ARGUMENTS FOR GMOS
  • Better resistance to stress: If crops can be made more resistant to pest outbreaks and  better resistance to severe weather, it would reduce the danger of crop failure.
  • More nutritious staple foods: By inserting genes into crops such as rice and wheat, we can increase their food value.
  • More productive farm animals: Genes might be inserted into cattle to raise their milk yield, for example.
  • GMOs might reduce the environmental impact of food production and industrial processes: Genetically engineered resistance to pests and diseases could greatly reduce the chemicals needed for crop protection
  • Rehabilitation of damaged or less-fertile land: Large areas of cropland in the developing world have become saline by unsustainable irrigation practices. Genetic modification could produce salt-tolerant varieties.
  • Longer shelf lives: The genetic modification of fruits and vegetables can make them less likely to spoil in storage or on the way to market.
  • Vaccines and medicines: Plants are being engineered to produce vaccines, proteins and other pharmaceutical products. This process is called “pharming”.
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There are scientific studies that support both positions, but it is possible to believe the studies that perform the same multinationals, who sell the GMOS, where they are ensuring the safe use, also ensuring that there is no genetic contamination and promising high yields; Don´t  lack of objectivity these studies?

One of the great promises of GM crops is that farmers use less chemicals, but they don´t. In practice they are selling a technology pack: GMO + glyphosate, therefore, the farmer is forced to buy GMO (herbicide resistant crop) together with the herbicide (glyphosate), and this is used as an herbicide that allows farmers to control weeds of cultivation. This is used for major global crops such as soy, corn, sorghum, canola, alfalfa, cotton. Are the farmers really using less chemicals?

Biotechnology companies often claim that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are essential scientific breakthroughs needed to feed the world; however, the real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access to food and land. Too many people are too poor to buy the food that is available (but often poorly distributed) or lack the land and resources to grow it themselves (Lappe, Collins & Rosset, 1998). If the problem of hunger in the world is more complex than just produce more, then; Is it possible for the GMOs to fix it?

History has shown that a huge area planted of a single crop variety is very vulnerable to new matching strains of pathogens or insect pests. Furthermore, the widespread use of homogeneous transgenic varieties will unavoidably lead to “genetic erosion,” as the local varieties used by thousands of farmers in the developing world are replaced by the new seeds (Robinson, l996). As history says, is much better a biodiverse farming system, where communities share knowledge and generate rurality; instead of farmers living marginalized behind monocultures.

Francisca Solar Araya

Agriculture Engineer

References

Miguel A. Altieri & Peter Rosset, 1999. Ten Reasons Why Biotechnology Will Not Ensure Food Security, Protect The Environment And Reduce Poverty In The Developing World.

FAO. 2003. Weighing the GMO arguments: against

FAO, 2003. Weighing the GMO arguments: for

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