genetically modified crops
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Genetically Modified CropsHow do the preconceived notions associated with transgenic foods in the United States and Europe differ from its actual risks and effects?By Amy Braun, Piv Kinnunen, and Adam Kaplan
Our HypothesisWe predict that, in general, public opinion concerning GM foods is extremely negative, blown out of proportion from the actual effects. Further, we will explore how public opinion towards GM foods differs across geographical and cultural boundaries, e.g. from America to Western Europe, and why these differences may arise.
Review: GMOsThe science behind genetically modified foods is vast and varying depending on the company and farmers needs Many different types of GMOs, for different climates, crops, and soilsA common goal is to reduce competition with weeds within the fields, allowing the crop to have higher yields as well as less time dedicated to tending to the crops
Review: GMOsCosts decrease:The seed is less expensive from seed distributors due to mass production rather than smaller suppliersThe increased yields with decreased initial cost provides potential increased profits for farmersSubsidized imports keep cost low in other countries, as well
Review: GMOsCosts increase:Cannot reuse seeds from crops the year before like in traditional farmingMore herbicides and fertilizers are needed to aid GMO crops, especially after the first years of use on the same field.Need to ensure security so there is limited spread of seed to neighboring farms
Environmental ConcernsAs Andow explains in Risk Assessment For Genetically Modified Crops, that there are many possible problems for non-target organisms, or plants that do not include the targeted genetically modified organisms This causes a decrease in biodiversity as well as increased vulnerability to disease or natural disaster once there is a monoculture
Case Study: Environment MEXICOS CORN CROPSThis area was once filled with a high variety of corn crops, each suited for soil types, altitudes, rainfall and temperature have now nearly abandoned the indigenous varieties and instead buy the less expensive American brands, including GMOs, even though they are not preferred by locals.
Health ConcernsIn the U.S.the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration do not run any additional testing on the foods because they are thought to be something that is equivalent to a product on the market Depending on the study, 75% to 92% of Americans want to have labelling on the products that include GM foods. Considering that almost 60% of Americans say that if GM foods were clearly labelled they would avoid purchasing them, it is understandable that there is a lot of lobbying against labelling of GM foods.
Case Study: GMOs in the U.S.A study done in January of 2001 by the Mellman Group and Public Opinion StrategiesIt shows that consumers know little about GM foods and are unconcerned about their safety. One in five changed their mind about GMO use after they learned how wide spread they are. US consumers are concerned about food freshness and food poisoning, rather than genetically modified foods which comes after salmonella and chemicals & fertilizers. Many say they want more research and labelling so that they know when they are eating GM foods.
Health ConcernsWorldwideantibiotic resistance: the genes that are added to the crops to resist insects can cause resistance to common antibiotics, including penicillin and ampicillin increased pesticide, fertilizer and herbicide usage: build up of poisonsAllergies: the splicing of different types of plants could cause allergies (ex: peanut) to spread among many food types
Worldwide ResponseAccording to Gaskell, about 50% of United States citizens were in favor of GMOs, while 30% of Europeans were opposed www.GMO-free-regions.org
Labeling for GMOs abroadFigure 1: Percentage of customers that want to have labelling in products that include GE foods in different countries (Data from: Center for Food Safety, 2000 and Eurobarometer, 1997)
European Opposition and TestingFigure 2: Levels of opposition to GM food and genetic testing in Europe in 1999 (Data from: Gaskell et al. 2000)
Europe versus United StatesFrom Eurobarometer survey in November 1999 Europeans seem to be more concerned about the long term effects of GM crops than American customers including concerns that they are a threat to natural order, that GM food is fundamentally unnatural and that it poses a risk to future generationsThe supporters of GM technology are more likely to be younger, male and better educated than opponents. Opponents are also more likely to agree with statements like: ordinary tomatoes do not contain genes, and GM tomatoes do and by eating GM foods persons genes could be affected. Agreeing with such statements shows a lack of scientific knowledge and shows also that much of the opposition to GM foods is more sentimental than rational.
Fears versus Impact
ConclusionConsumer fears are all potential risks, some more than others, and use of GM crops should only be continued with extreme care and intense long term research on the topic should be continued. With most of the cases the use of GM crops can only be justified when the conventional methods are worse and pose even higher risks to the environment. Also, the labeling that is enforced in much of the world should also be mandatory here in the United States.
Work CitedAndow, D.A. et. Al. Non-target and Biodiversity Risk Assessment For Genetically Modified Crops. 9th Annual Symposium on the Biosaftey of GMOs. (24-29 Sep 2006).Dale, Phillip J., Belinda Clarke, and Eliana Fontes. "Potential for the Environmental Impact of Transgenic Crops." Nature Biotechnology 20 (2002): 567-574. Evenson, R, E., and D. Gollin. "Assessing the Impact of the Green Revolution, 1960 to 2000." Science 300 (2003): 758-762. Gaskell, George, Martin W. Bauer, John Durant, and Nicholas C. Allum. "Worlds Apart? the Reception of Genetically Modified Foods in Europe and the U.S." Science 285 (1999): 384-387.D'agnolo, G. "GMO: Human Health Risk Assessment." Veteinary Research Communications 29 (2005): 7-11. "GMO Free Regions." European Conference on GMO-Free Regions. 6 Mar. 2007 . Levidow, Les, and Karin Boschert. "Coexistance or Contradiction? GM Crops Versus Alternative Agriculture in Europe." Geoforum (2007): 1-26. Zwahlen, Claudia, and D.a. Andow. "Assessing Environmental Risks of Transgenic Plants." Ecology Letters 9 (2006): 196-214.