Opponents of GMOs and GMFs also point out that while the primary beneficiary of this technology is supposed to be the farmers, this is not the case. Due to the proprietary nature of the technology, companies that control the patents are demanding premiums and control of how the GM seeds are to be used. By creating sterile plants (“terminator” gene) or plants with a “traitor” gene (plants must be sprayed with specific chemicals at specific times or they die), the biotechnology companies deny the farmer the right of harvesting the seeds produced by his plants and using them the following season.
By using this method of production, farmers are not only changing the genetics of their crops, but the desired traits that have been engineered into the plant are passed on to the wild weeds or to other offending species. Thus creating super weeds or super pests with increased resistance and requiring higher usage of chemicals. In a special report on October of 2003 on GM food, the magazine New Scientist sites the results of a four-year study conducted in the United Kingdom insinuating that GM crops to be worse for the environment.
The report stated that “the results of the world’s largest ever trial of GM crops show that two of the three tested – oilseed rape and sugar beet – had a worse impact on farmland wildlife than conventional crops. “19 In addition, an editorial in the magazine the New Scientist pointed out that GM crops will not make the environmental concerns go away, but instead, it will lead to more detrimental problems in the long run, such as “GM crops cross-pollinating with each other to produce “bastardized” strains and resistance to more than one herbicide”20
The major concern is that genetic engineering could permanently alter the ecosystem. Once genetically altered plants and animals are introduced into the environment, they may endanger species and potentially reduce biological diversity. European scientists have reported on studies indicating, “that genetically engineered crops could harm ladybugs and green lacewings. ” In addition, “in May 2000, a leading European zoologist found that genes from genetically engineered canola jumped the species barrier and were picked up by the bacteria in the digestive tracts of bees.
” This indicates that if people ingest genetically engineered foods, these antibiotic-resistance genes have the capacity to mutate and cause serious problems that may not be reversible by usage of antibiotics because the bacteria will be able to resist it. GMOs and GMFs have many critics that say it is not the answer to our food problems. The criticisms come from all sectors and encompass many possible problems – ranging from the risk of transferring crop traits to other species, to increases in use of herbicides and pesticides.
Furthermore, increased control of seed supplies by a small number of companies, to damage to earth’s ecology and finally, the possibility of danger to human health. All of the criticisms have to be considered and thoroughly addressed for GMOs and GMFs to be accepted. Organic Farming Pros Organic Farming and traditional farming may be viewed as being similar; however, the truth is that, while they share certain similarities they are very different in practice and consequences. Organic Farming is a sustainable form of agriculture and it is more than just a set of farming methods or practices.
Organic farming differs from other farming systems in a number of ways. As defined by the E. U Commission on Agriculture Organic farming, “it favors renewable resources and recycling, returning to the soil the nutrients found in waste products. Organic farming respects the environment’s own systems for controlling pests and disease in raising crops and livestock and avoids the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics or gene manipulation. “21 Organic farming does not abuse the land or any animals that ingest it.
Organic farming is a “well-balanced, self-sufficient and sustainable agro-eco system that operates on a basis of local and renewable resources”. In organic farming, nature has its own values and it is dealt as the most important part of the world. Organic Framing offers many advantages to farmers, consumers and society. Due to its underlying principles and practices it contributes to the overall health of the planet by cleaning up the soil and water, and preserving wildlife and bio-diversity. It minimizes the use of pesticides and fertilizers, limiting environmental damage and protecting human health.
Increases self reliance in farmers by utilizing their knowledge and skills of the local environment, and putting it to use in solving unique local agricultural problems. In industrialized nations, crops yield comparably higher. As shown from results of 15 years of a long term, large-scale experiment carried out by the Rodale Institute, “after a transition period of four years, crops grown under organic systems (animal- and legume-based) yielded as much as and sometimes better than conventional crops.
Moreover, organic systems out-produced the conventional system when conditions were lousy”22. By reducing or eliminating the level of chemical usage the most obvious benefit of Agro-ecology is a cleaner environment. The reduced or non-use of pesticides and herbicides diminishes the leaching of these chemicals into the soil and eliminates possible contamination of our water supplies and reduces our exposure to possible carcinogens and mutagens. The natural ecological balance is re-established and a biological vitality flourishes.
Biological diversity can take place and ecological problems can be handled by applying natural solutions. The (FAO) review found that “organic agriculture poses no risk of water pollution through synthetic pesticides and that nitrate leaching rates per hectare are significantly lower compared to conventional systems. By offering food resources and shelter for beneficial arthropods and birds, organic agriculture contributes to natural pest control. It also contributes to the conservation and survival of pollinators”.
Furthermore, our health is protected because our exposure to certain dangerous chemicals is diminishing; meaning, we are not exposed to dangerous chemicals in our soil, water or air, because we do not ingest them when we eat our foods. Organic Farming does not use anti-biotics, GMOs or any other growth promoting or enhancing chemicals. This curtails the incidence of allergic reactions, the growth of anti-biotic resistant super-bugs or other food borne mutation. During the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) incident in the UK, not one animal was detected with the disease in farms practicing Organic Farming.
Nonetheless, Organic Farming may be able to provide healthier foods by reducing exposure to chemical allergens and increasing the natural benefits inherent in plants to combat certain diseases. Additionally, Organic Farming leads to efficient production, environmental and local economic sustainability with benefits to local communities, and improved food security. Cons The critics of Organic Farming point out that many of the advantages touted by its proponents really do not exist. In many ways, Organic Farming is viewed as a very expensive way of production and a method that is not self-sustained enough to provide food to the world.
Opponents maintain that because of the curtailed use of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides; furthermore, agro-ecological farming allows the increase of weed crops and biological pests. Generally speaking, “weed problems are more numerous on the organic farms. “23 This leads to diminished crop yields and an economic hardship for the farmer. Additionally, the labor intensive nature of Organic Farming leads to increased costs that either diminishes the farmers’ incomes or becomes too expensive for consumers.
This allows only affluent consumers to purchase organic foods leaving the majority of consumers out, creating a small marketplace. Detractors point out that organic foods have a high cost of production because of more costly solutions to pest, disease and weed management without the use of agrichemicals. The solutions developed further detract from the commercial value of the crops due to limited shelf life and unpleasant cosmetic appearance. Aside from the present problems, organic farming has higher prices for organic fertilizers, diseases, insects, pests, and weeds.
Thus, “organic farming is facing difficulties such as low yielding capacity, poor appearance of the organic produces and higher production cost. “24 The biggest criticism of organic farming is that it is very similar to existing agricultural practices. Traditional farming and organic farming differ only in certain aspects that are not based on scientific fact. They are, “soluble mineral inputs that are prohibited and synthetic herbicides and pesticides that are rejected in favor of natural pesticides.
But agriculture based on these principles results in a more costly product, mainly because of lower yields and inefficient use of land. “25 The benefits for wildlife equal those provided by organic farming but at a far lower cost to consumers. Those who are against Organic Farming believe that this method of food production is not the answer to our problems. It is rooted in an un-scientific ideology that cannot fulfill our future food production needs, and aside from that, it is too costly for those underdeveloped worlds.
All in all, “organic agriculture was formulated as an ideology, but today’s global problems-such as climate change and population growth-need agriculture pragmatism and flexibility, not ideology”26 Analysis All decisions that affect human kind’s future, as the topic of food production, elicit intensely passionate arguments. While there are many positions and many varied solutions, in this paper we are focusing on the respective merits of Organic Farming vs. Genetically Modified Foods. The problem is real, however, the right solution is difficult to uncover.
Our climate is changing, population is growing at un-precedent rate, and our resources are finite. Furthermore, to make matters worse, greed has reared its ugly head. There are vast sums of money at stake, making the companies involved fight harder to have their agenda accepted. Political pressure is creating animosity between allied nations and pitting the industrialized countries against the developing nations. Whatever the result, whichever way we decide to go, there will be a cost; however, the magnitude of the cost has to be commensurate to the benefit that human kind will derive.
In this section, we will try to analyze the cost to benefit of each position and try to predict the willingness to pay by the ultimate consumer. High cost has been a great argument against Organic Farming. Indeed, currently the direct cost to consumers of organic foods is higher than other foods. This is because the current state of Agro-ecological farming requires more capital input by the farmer due to higher costs of raw materials and a higher degree of oversight and diligence to guarantee the organic status of the foods.
Nevertheless, these higher prices are not as crucial if examined against the consumers’ willingness to pay. The statistics show that the certified organic food market is growing at an accelerated rate. According to the Organic Monitor, ” global sales of organic food & drinks increased by 10. 1 percent to USD 23 billion in 2002 according to latest research”27 They also indicate that while Europe was the largest organic food market, it has been overtaken by North America where the use of GMOs is prevalent and rigorously supported.
Organic Monitor also predicts that organic food demand will not be limited to the western countries as regional markets develop. In Europe there has been the strongest opposition to GM foods and the strongest support for organics. Most countries in Europe have enacted very tough GM labeling laws, indicating that a food product contains GM ingredients before shelving the product. This has led to a trade dispute between Europe and the US. Additionally, The European Commission on Agriculture has even recommended agri-environmental premiums be given to organic farmers.
“Organic farmers are entitled to claim agri-environmental premiums since it is recognized that this particular farming system benefits the environment. “28 The Danish government has actively promoted organic farming as a key part of its agricultural policy. Organic farming “can in many ways, directly address the problems of industrial agriculture, since the development of organic production has been part of government policy for many years. “29 The UK has been the most vocal opponent to GM foods.
They have spearheaded the drive to fully test GM crops and foods and thoroughly investigate their possible contaminating effect to the rest of the food supply and the environment. In a poll conducted in London by LondonEats. com 35. 6% of those asked indicated that they “would never eat GM altered food”, and 26. 1% said they “prefer non-GM food”. 30 An article in the Guardian featured the story about the success of a London based organic food caterer and the potential of organic foods. On the other hand, in the U. S, GMOs are most prevalent and supported while organics are making dramatic in-roa.