GMOs pose serious danger


Max Schachere, Staff Writer

New York introduced a bill earlier this year which would mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The bill comes on the heels of Proposition 37, a similar bill which narrowly failed to pass in California back in 2012, which would have mandated labeling GMOs. These proposed bills represent a recent national concern regarding genetically modified organisms. First introduced in the 1980s, GMOs have quickly become the agricultural standard globally. In the U.S., 92 percent of corn, 94 percent of cotton and 94 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered in some way. Abroad, 54 percent of GM food is grown by farmers in developing countries. Despite claims that these foods are healthier or more efficient to grow, GMOs actually present serious harms.

When companies are able to patent basic foods, everyone suffers economically. In a 2013 report, Michigan State University found that four companies, Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta and Dow control 40 percent of the seed market and 80 percent of the corn market. With so few companies competing, an agricultural oligarchy has effectively been created. Since each company wants to make as much profit as possible, the Institute of Integrative Technology found that the number of non-GMO seed varieties has dropped by 67 percent in just five years. Subsequently, farmers globally are essentially forced to use GM seeds. Farmers are now constantly in fear of drifting pollen, as cross-contamination could lead to destructive lawsuits. Monsanto alone has sued farmers for over 24 million dollars. Friends of the Earth found that the extra, arbitrary precautions farmers now must take economically outweigh any potential benefits of GM foods.

The increased economic hardships incurred by poor farmers translates into increased global hunger. Grist Magazine found that GMOs cost farmers 100 dollars more per acre compared to organic food, and profit actually decreases by 30 percent. The London School of Medicine writes that this increase in cost forces farmers to take out loans from these giant biotech companies, just to be able to afford planting their own seeds. What results is a vicious cycle of loans, since they can never fully repay their debt. Consequently, they are forced to grow cash crops, like biofuels and animal feed, instead of food. Due to this substitution, ActionAid reports that by 2020, an extra 600 million people will go hungry.

Many supporters of GMOs will point toward supposed unique benefits of GMOs, such as decreased herbicide use or “miracle foods” like golden rice. Unfortunately, in the U.S., GMOs have led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicides — a massive environmental concern. Many of these miracle foods are too good to be true, as an 11 year old boy would have to eat 27 bowls of golden rice in order to satisfy the minimum vitamin requirement. At the end of the day, poverty is the primary cause of hunger. We must focus on reducing global poverty, a goal opposite of the GMO corporations.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Max Schachere at [email protected].