- April 28, 2020
Genetically Modified Organisms
Emergingtechnologies are developed in order to address the key social andeconomic problems facing the contemporary society. The geneticallymodified organisms (GMOs) are plants and crops that are producedusing the biotechnology. This technology permits the scientists toalter the genetic composition in order to achieve certain goals (WHO,2016). The GMO technology enables the scientists to remove or addsome genetic material into the profile of an organism in order tohelp it express certain characteristics. Although the DNA wasdiscovered in 1935, the desire to alter its structure in order toachieve some desired results began in 1973 when the first recombinantprofile was produced (Shireen, 2013). The successful development of arecombinant DNA in laboratory motivated scientists to make GMOs wherethe first patent was issued in the year 1980 (Shireen, 2013). Sincethen, researchers have managed to alter different segments of theDNA. This paper will discuss the GMOs, with a focus on their use,policy as well as regulations, benefits to various stakeholders, andcurrent policies and regulations.
TheUse of the GMOs
Geneticmodification can be done on plants and animals in order to achievedifferent purposes. The sections of the genetic profile that aretargeted depend on the purpose that the scientists intend to achieve.There are four major types of genetic modification that have beenapproved and put into commercial use. First, herbicide tolerance hasbeen conferred through the modification of the expression of genes inseveral plants, including soybeans (Shireen, 2013). Secondly, thedevelopments of crops that are resistant to insects have resulted inplants that do not require farmers to use chemicals to control pests.Third, the GMOs have helped scientists to address lifestyle diseases(such as obesity) by alternating the fat content in certain crops,including canola. Lastly, the GMO technology has made it possible todevelop plum plants that are resistant to viral infection. Therefore,some of the uses of the GMO technology include a reduction in thecost of farming and an increase in crop as well as the animalproductivity.
Concernsthat Inform the Process of Developing Policies and Regulations
Theregulation of new technology is a common practice that aims to ensurethat it does not harm the society. The nature of the regulation canbe determined by perception or facts. Currently, countries aredeveloping policies and regulations for the production of GMOs basedon four major concerns. The first concern is the impact that the GMOshave on human health. This issue is still controversial wheredifferent stakeholders have dissimilar opinions. For example,researchers in Canada accused the government of conducting wrongexperiments that resulted in a conclusion that the GMOs were safe forconsumption by the human beings (Office of the Auditor General ofCanada, 2016). These scientists presented several facts indicatingthat GMOs are able to facilitate the transfer of proteins acrossspecies, which could result in serious genetic diseases. In addition,the organisms are capable of producing novel toxins and elevateinnocuous compounds to levels that are harmful. In the case of theU.S., some scientists have expressed their reservations, in spite ofthe fact that the FDA has approved several GMO products (OAGC, 2016).
Thesecond concern is the impact that the GMOs could have on sustainableagriculture. The policy makers and regulators who oppose the use ofGMOs argue that it limits the capacity of a country to invest insustainable development, especially in the agricultural sector. Forexample, these opponents fear that the commercialization of Bt(Bacillus thuringiensis) crops could result in a sudden emergence ofpests that are resistant to this genetic modification (OAGC, 2016).The incident could subject the world to food crises.
Third,environmental concerns have motivated many policy makers to opposethe production as well as the commercialization of the GMOs. Animalexperiments have shown that the consumption of GMO potatoes destroysthe gastrointestinal tract of rats. This is an indication of the factthat this technology has the capacity to destroy the ecosystem (OAGC,2016). Similar studies have indicated that the monarch butterfliesthat feed on the pollen of the Bt corn die prematurely. In addition,the GMOs have the ability to transfer their genetic composition tothe nearby crops through pollen, which could result in the emergenceof crops or weeds that are not economically viable or difficult tocontrol.
Thefourth factor is associated with social as well as ethical concernsraised by the stakeholders. The modern biotechnology has raised theissue of ownership of genetic material. The lack of informationsharing and labeling has denied people the right to select what theywould like to eat (OAGC, 2016). The policy makers as well as theregulators who are motivated by ethical concerns have been pushingfor the development of rules that will make it mandatory forcompanies to label their GMO products. These policies and regulationsare intended to address the issue of information asymmetry thatexists between consumers and producers of the GMOs. In addition, thepolicy makers who push for mandatory segregation and labeling arguethat individuals who do not consume animal products could have theirrights infringed since some manipulations are accomplished throughthe insertion of animal genes into the crops (OAGC, 2016). This couldresult in the infringement of consumers’ right to enjoy religiousfreedom.
TheGMOs’ Economic Benefits
Theprimary objective of advancing the GMO technology is to enhance thelevel of efficiency in the field of agriculture. The concept ofefficiency implies that there is a need to increase the ability offarmers to produce more using less resources and space. Efficiencycan be achieved in two ways when using the biotechnology. First,scientists have developed crops that can yield more than traditionalplants under similar or harsher conditions (American Farm Bureau,2016). Secondly, the use the biotechnology to enhance the disease anddrought resistance in crops have helped farmers avoid loses. It isestimated that over 90 % of the corn, soy, and cotton that is grownin the U.S. have been modified genetically in order to enhanceproductivity.
Mostimportantly, farmers who adopt the GMO technology enjoy tangibleeconomic benefits. Studies have shown that the U.S. farmers earnedabout $ 18.8 billion and approximately $ 116.6 billion between theyear 1996 and 2012 from the GMOs (AFB, 2016). Over 60 % of the gainswere attributed to an increase in the level of productivity ofindividual crops (AFB, 2016). Other financial benefits are associatedwith a decrease in the cost of production and the amount ofpesticides required for the protection of crops as well as animalsfrom diseases.
TheGMO technology has played a critical role in reducing the cost ofproducing agricultural goods, which has lowered their price in themarket. Although consumers are interested in different factors(including the nutritional value), they appreciate lower prices sincethey help them overcome the challenge of a high cost of living.According to AFB (2016) the introduction of the GMO technology hasreduced the price of several crops (including soya beans, corn, andtheir derivatives) by 6-10 %. However, consumers enjoy lower priceswhen farmers agree to transfer the benefits associated with a declinein the cost of production to them.
Apartfrom direct financial benefits, the GMO technology allows consumersto access food products with nutritional value that is difficult tofind in traditional brands. For example, the technology has made itpossible to enrich rice with vitamin A. This has enabled thestakeholders to address the challenge of malnutrition in countrieswhere rice is the staple food (AFB, 2016). Moreover, biotechnologyhas increased the capacity of scientists to replace the unhealthyfats found in soybeans with mono-saturated ones, which is a part ofthe solution to the challenge of obesity as well as heart diseases.Moreover, the technology has made it possible to develop crops thatcan retain their post-harvest quality for a long period. This allowsconsumers to access quality products.
Benefitsto the national economy
Thecountry benefits through the generation of additional revenue and thecreation of jobs. For an instant, a study has shown that theapplication of the GMO technology in the U.S. agricultural sectorresulted in the generation of about $ 76 billion in the financialyear 2010 (AFB, 2016). The same study indicated that the technologyhas contributed towards the increase in the value of exports by $144n billion in 2013. This increase led to a trade surplus amountingto $ 37 billion in the financial year 2013 (AFB, 2016). In addition,about one in every 12 jobs in the U.S. is created in the agriculturalsector.
Manypolicy makers are influenced by the negative environmental impactthat the GMO technology has on the environment. However, empiricalstudies have confirmed that the technology has reduced theapplication of pesticides by about 8.8 % (AFB, 2016). This datasuggest that the GMO technology goes a long way in helping thegovernment to protect the environment. Moreover, the use of cropsthat are tolerant to herbicides facilitates the no-till agriculture,which reduces soil as well as water pollution. The no-tillagriculture reduces the run-off of different farm inputs (such asphosphorus and nitrogen) and sedimentation (AFB, 2016).
Moreover,the genetic modification of crops increases their productivity, whichhelps the country address the challenge of food insecurity. A studyshows that about two billion people are malnourished in the world andan estimated 9.6 billion will not be able to access food by the year2015 (AFB, 2016). The world will only be able to address thischallenge by supplying farmers with seeds that produce more andresist problems associate with the climate change. Therefore, the GMOtechnology is the only viable solution.
CurrentRegulation and Policies
Theidea of requiring the food companies to label their products is basedon the fact that customers need to make informed choices. Studieshave shown that over 90 % of the consumers would like to be informedwhen making choices (AFB, 2016). Legislators have tried to respond tothis public opinion by introducing several bills (such as theGenetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act) into the Congress, butmost of them have not been successful. However, the U.S. Senateapproved the first legislation that will require all food companiesto label their GMO products that are sold in the market. The act waspassed and enacted in July 2016. The new legislation requires thefood companies to include information about the GMO contents in theirlabels. The contents should be accompanied by a code or a picturethat can be scanned by consumers using their smartphones (Prentice,2016). The idea of developing the laws that will force the foodcompanies to label and segregate GMO products require thestakeholders to weigh between consumer rights and the economicimplications of such decisions. For an instant, it is estimated thatthe successful development of the mandatory labeling laws will forceeach American household to spend an extra $ 500 each year on food(AFB, 2016). This is attributed to the fact that food companies willhave to adjust their production as well as the supply chain systemsin order to comply with the new regulations.
Governmentagencies and their responsibilities
Theregulation of the GMO technology is done different governmentagencies. In the case of the U.S.A, there are three crucialgovernment bodies that are responsible for the regulation and thedevelopment of the relevant policies. The first body is the Animaland Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which regulates the GMOsby controlling their planting, transportation, and importation(Acosta, 2014). Under the application procedures outlined in thePlant Protection Act, APHIS requires the companies to provideinformation regarding the donor, recipient organisms, composition ofthe altered material, and genetic expression that the scientistsintend to achieve (Acosta, 2014). These requirements ensure thatgenetic modification is only done to benefit the society and not tocause harm.
Secondly,the Food and Drug Administration is a government body that regulatesthe GMO technology by ensuring that the animals, plants, and all foodproducts that are processed through the biotechnology do not containcomponents that could harm consumers (Acosta, 2014). The FDAclassifies any component that is added to the conventional foodproducts as additives. Its mandate is to ensure that the geneticmodification that is done in animals and plants is safe before theyare marketed.
Thethird government agency is referred to as the EnvironmentalProtection Agency. The EPA regulates the GMO technology using theprovisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (Acosta, 2014). Thislegislation gives EPA the authority to confirm that the GMOs do notcontain any component that could harm the environment. Apart from theregulatory practices that are done by EPA, the National EnvironmentalPolicy Act allows the federal government to conduct the assessmentunder the special circumstances. Policies and laws that are developedby the federal as well as the state governments are established inresponse to the aforementioned environmental, health, sustainability,and ethical concerns.
TheGMO technology is among the most controversial innovations of thetwentieth century. Although this technology has made a significantbreakthrough, especially in the agricultural sector, differentstakeholders have expressed their reservations regarding its level ofsafety. The environmentalists argue that the technology results inthe development of products that cause pollution or disrupt theecosystem. The stakeholders in the health care sector and members ofthe public fear that the consumption of the GMOs could subject themto the risk of suffering from different diseases. The concerns ofdifferent stakeholders have forced the government (including thelegislators and policy makers) to develop legislations andregulations. These regulations are developed to ensure that the GMOsare safe. Although the GMO technology has been criticized by manystakeholders, it is evident that it has the capacity to address mostof the social as well as the economic challenges that are experiencedby the modern society. For example, its capacity to increase theproductivity of plants and animals has reduced the challenge of foodinsecurity. Moreover, the fact that the use of GMOs reduce the amountof pesticides required to control diseases and pests suggests thatmost of the concerns raised by environmentalists result from the lackof information. This is because GMOs play a critical role in reducingenvironmental pollution.
Acosta,L. (2014). Restrictionson genetically modified organisms: United States.Washington, DC: Library of Congress.
AmericanFarm Bureau (2016). Biotechgrassroots toolkit.Washington, DC: American Farm Bureau.
Officeof the Auditor General of Canada (2016). Federallaws, regulations, and policies on genetically modified organisms(GMO).Ontario: Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
Prentice,C. (2016). U.S. GMO food labeling bill passes Senate. Reuters.Retrieved November 17, 2016, fromhttp://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-food-gmo-vote-idUSKCN0ZO08N
Shireen,G. (2013, March 10). GMO timeline: A history of genetically modifiedfoods. GMOInside.Retrieved November 17, 2016, fromhttp://gmoinside.org/gmo-timeline-a-history-genetically-modified-foods/
WHO(2016). Food safety. WHO.Retrieved November 17, 2016, fromhttp://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/