Conventional farming and organic farming have become one of the most controversial cases in the past 50 years. Debates involving genetic and organic foods have reached not only the government but also the consumers ears.
Famine had haunted mankind throughout recorded history (Laegreid, Bockman,
Kaarstad pg 1). When taking a broad look at the principles and assumptions that underlie the practices of conventional and organic farming, it is possible to identify the differences between the two approaches, as they should be in terms of science versus non-science (Myers-pg 22). Both organic and conventional systems of agriculture use science to further their knowledge and to improve their approaches (Myers-pg 22). Both systems of agriculture use science to further their knowledge and to improve their approaches (Myers-pg 22). Both systems would argue that science had been instrumental in developing their versions of farming as it is practiced today (Myers-pg 22). The two approaches start from very different underlying premises, the form that the scientific research takes and the conclusions that are drawn from the research (Myers-pg 22). The time has come for society to be the judge of their own destiny and decide on which side to stand on - the conventional-genetic farming or the organic farming. Has mankind become a friend or a hostile opponent to himself and to nature?
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Conventional farming has been transformed and improved beyond recognition over the last hundred years, with dramatic improvements around the world and an agricultural progress that had come due to the results of science, especially chemistry (Myers-22). It is the aim of genetic modified plants that brings about a higher yield and a higher resistance of stress to fruits/crops with an improvement in its characteristics (Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI-pg 79). Since the early 1990's transgenic plants had steadily increased in acreage in India from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 44.2 million hectares in 2000 (TERI-pg 79). These plants are routinely subjected to tests and checks before being released in the environment for large-scale commercial cultivation (TERI-pg xi). This genetic modified food is subject to allerginicity, toxicity tests in simulation as well as animal model system before recommending it for human consumption (TERI- pg xi). Society will benefit from these genetic foods because of their role in addressing problems that are related to malnutrition, poverty and hunger worldwide.
Organic farming has been around for 4000 years and has only been rediscovered since 1939 in North America (Myers- pg 9). Organic farming just like conventional farming is a changing and evolving science that is constantly being moved forward by the growing knowledge of the biological and ecological sciences (Myers-pg 10). Due to consumer fear - caused by the increasing potential for agricultural products to carry diseases, such as "mad cow", or certain harmful additives, such as pesticides, hormones, nitrates and other unnatural ingredients - and doubts about technological improvements, such as genetically modified foods or radiated foods, there is an ever increasing demand for healthy high-quality food (Bavic, Bavic- pg 1).
An increase of consumer awareness for food-safety issues and environmental concerns has contributed to the growth in organic farming in the last few years. Organic farming has truly developed into one of the most dynamic agricultural sectors. In the European Union, the organic farming sector grew from 25 percent a year between 1993 and 1998. Since 1998, it is established to have grown by about 30 percent a year, although in some member states it seems to have reached a plateau (Bavic- pg 1).
Global deregulation brings about increase pressure for deregulation in Canada. In either case, regulatory changes means that scientist and researchers need to work directly with the farmer and commercial businesses and take in account the entire value chain
(Min. of Agri:2.3:pg 4).
Farmers who are trying to survive within the current U.S. agricultural system buy the latest machinery, plant the newest genetically engineered seeds and apply the latest
agric-chemicals (Duram- pg 9). These genetically engineered plants consist of soybeans, corn, rice, potatoes, cotton, canola, tomatoes, sweet peppers, peanuts and sunflowers (Duram-pg 10). The safety of GM crops and GM foods derived from them has been viewed from the standpoint of either the PROCESS or the PRODUCT. The PROCESS is thought to involve neither essentially nor any potentially dangerous steps, since gene engineering technology is considered to be more precise and intentional than traditional genetic techniques (Duram-pg 139). The PRODUCT on the other hand involves the safety of GM crops that should be assessed based on the scientific concept of substance equivalence and recommended by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy (Jackson, Linskens - pg 139).
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The GM crops or GM food products are the promised benefits for farmers. This biotechnology impacts the entire food chain from the genetic improvement of agricultural crops to the processing, packaging and distribution of processed foods (Duram-pg 140). This is evidence that GM crops can produce healthier foods and be used as chemical factories for the construction materials, which involves for the medical, food, chemical and agricultural industries (Duram-pg 140).
The next step to plant engineering is the creation of crops that will benefit consumers with high nutritional value or having the ability to prevent life-style related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, hyper-cholosterolemie (Jackson-pg 140).
At present the agriculture industry and the consumer faces the problem of how to regulate GM crops produced by biotechnology to improve the supply of sound, wholesome, tasty convenient and affordable foods (Jackson-pg 140). What has not been mentioned above is the potential problems that have been withheld to the public to accept GM crops and GM food products (Jackson -pg 140). It is a fact that 40 percent of corn, 73 percent of cotton and 81 percent of soybeans grown in the United States are genetically engineered (Duram- pg 10). Most processed foods contain soy or corn (in various forms such as soy lecithin or corn syrup), and many processed foods on American supermarket shelves contain biotech ingredients (Duram - pg 10). In fact 60
to 70 percent of non-organic food in American supermarkets contain GMOs
(Duram - pg 10). Many dairy products have genetically altered ingredients; about
70 percent of cheese products in the United States are made with a GE (genetically engineered) enzyme and a GE version of the bovine growth hormone (Duram- pg10).
At present, GMO foods are not labeled despite the fact that 94 percent of Americans expect them to be labeled (Duram - pg10). Consumers have no way of knowing if the products they are eating are gene-altered corn flakes, potato chips, peanut butter, or any other processed food (Dunan - pg 10). On the other hand, certified organic food is not grown from GMO seed therefore buying organic food is the only way to attempt to avoid GMOs (Dunan - pg 10).
Motivating the consumer to purchase organic products is not as simple as it looks. Clearly, campaigning had a major effect in educating the consumer by means of in-store marketing interventions and focusing on retailers to purchase organic products. This would lead the customer scrambling to buy organic products but the demand on supply soon fell as prices soared. At least 57 percent of consumers ranked organic food better than conventional food due to food safety, freshness, general health benefits, nutritional value, effect on the environment, flavor and the general appearance of the product (Dunan - pg 74). Organic food buying behavior and the importance placed on organic food production are significant in connection to consumers. Their demographic variables are compared according to their education, income, age, race/ethnicity, gender, household composition, religious observance and politics. Education has continually played a major roll and a major factor to organic buying. The secondary roll would include income, age and gender (Bellows, Diamond, Hallman, Onyango : vol.6: Art.2: pg 10-11).
The American farmer is constantly caught on the industrial treadmill when told
how GMO products will earn them more profits (Dunan - pg 11). On the other hand the export markets refuse engineered crops due to consumer uprising (Dunan - pg 11). In addition, farmers face issues concerning pollen drift; which in giving time other neighboring fields with GM corn plants could cross-pollinate giving the organic farmer a GM crop (Danam - pg 11).
It is easy to make a mistake when comparing different forms of farming and assuming that it is a black-and-white issue (Myers-pg 3). There is a huge range of farming practices within conventional farming: dairy, sheep and cattle farms, which is also grown pasture, to grain and other crops (Myers-pg 31). On the other side of the treadmill, organic farming is prairie grain farming on a huge industrial scale and a massive intensive animal-rearing factories (Myers-pg 31).
The threat of global warming and the fact that worldwide oil production will soon peak reveals that the present practices concerning conventional farming and GMO products must change. Change is in progress for the health of the world's soils, for the environment, for wildlife and certainly for human beings (Myers-pg 31).
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