The world population has experienced incessant growth since its creation, especially within last 50 years. The growth rate peaked after the world war when numbers went from 3 billion to almost 7 billion in 2010. The World Bank (world development indicators) estimated the world population to 6,697,254,040.53 in 2008. People are living longer because of new technology and progress in health care. A disadvantage of this growing population will be the ability to produce more food to feed everyone. The higher the population the more production of food needs to be made, although our resources are limited. In the face of shortages or unequal rationing of food in the world, humans with their technology and progress introduced genetic modified organism (GMO). The creation of GMO was motivated by the need to confront this huge populations needs for sustenance at low cost and to help many countries to tackle their own foods production issues. GMOs brought a lot of hope at its creation with the ultimate goal of wiping out starvation in the world. However, the creators' dreams fell apart when opposing scientists and food-activists figured out the disadvantages of GMO. Consumers in Europe were the most reticent to reevaluate the use of GMOs and through their interest in the food industry were able to slow down the use of GMOs in the continent. Since then, many countries are working backward trying to eradicate GMOs out of their country as well. Europe is stepping out of the box compared to the other continents in its quest of eradicating GMOs. Although Europe has a strong consumer community and conviction, it is not likely that they would be able to ban total use of GMOs in the continent due to economical and production issues.
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Genetically modified organisms, GMOs, are of an importance use nowadays as they allow many people to be fed quickly by fast growing crops that are suitable for the environment and resistible to insects. Due to the use of GMOs, there is broad variety of food available to humans in developed nations. These developed nations grow and ship GMOs to developing countries where it is in most need. GMOs have demonstrated very interesting facts by their use through biotechnology yet it has some effects on the environment. There are also some drawbacks from GMOs and yet seem to outweigh the usefulness as they pollute the environment and become a serious menace to the biodiversity on earth.
1-History of GMOs
GMOs (Genetically modified Organisms) had specific changes in their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. Its first appearance on the market was at the beginning of 1990s. It affected a variety of products such as legumes, fruits, and cotton. Recently, they were introduced to animal products. Other methods used to modify food organisms are selective breeding (plant and animal) and also soma clonal variation. Since its first appearance, GMOs were able to make their way into the market and took over in comparison to organically grown food. GMOs journey in Europe encountered reluctance during its short livelihood, due basically to consumers influence and the active work of anti-GMOs groups in certain European countries. In 1998, a few countries in Europe lead to the European de facto moratorium on GMOs, and the use of GMOs was reestablished by the European commission in 2004. Despite the approval of the EU commissions, European countries to this day are still hesitant for the wide use of GMOs and prefer to do their own regulations by their choice of GMOs used. A concept of 'free GMOs Europe zone' was introduced yet is not practical nowadays. Would Europe keep resisting to the use of certain GMOs? In this world of free trade and despite the economic issues and the pressure of the USA, can Europe successfully ban GMOs in their continent?
2)GMOs expansion in Europe
The first commercial GMO was produced in the US by a Californian company (Calgene). It was a tomato called Flavr Savr which was made stronger to rotting and was released into the market in 1994 without any special labeling. It opened the door for other companies to work their way out in the field and obtained licenses for their genetics modified products.
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In Europe, the first GMO product was introduced in February 1996 by Sainsbury and Safeway stores in the United Kingdom. According to Mavis Butcher in his paper on GM food, an alternative of the Flavr Savr was used by Zeneca to produce tomato paste which was sold in Europe during the summer of 1996. It released the entrance for products such as GM crops, insect resistant cotton and herbicide-tolerant soybeans which were available in the market in 1996.
3)Advantages and disadvantages of GMOs
The world population will soon top almost 7 billion and is predicted to keep increasing in the future. Providing food for the population has become a clear issue. It became a challenge to take care of the booming population since our resources did not increase. The success of GMO food was partially due to this need. It is impossible to provide enough crops for this huge population using the same resources that we have, with the Global warming (climate change) influencing natural crops agriculture. The World Bank showed in its report in 1998 on GMOs an increase of 25% in food crop yields in the developing counties.
Organic crops production has been decreasing lately in some areas due to environment issues, insect invasions and many other related problems. The damages can result in financial losses for the farmers and can result in starvation in poor countries which still practice traditional agriculture. In this case we see that GMO crops with a specific resistance to such critters can be an economical advantage. It will allow more control on the production rate and help stabilize the economy. It could help balance the world agricultural production. "For example growing GM foods such as B.t. corn can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides and reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market" (Whitman, 2000). Other advantages of GMO crops are Herbicide tolerance, disease tolerance, cold tolerance, nutrition and pharmaceuticals.
The use of GMOs has brought many peoples and activists-group to stand up and give their opinions about its safety. Environmentalist and other non-supporters of GMOs brought their reasons of why the population should not consume genetic modified organism. One of the main disadvantages is its environmental impacts. Modifying organism through genetic engineering techniques may present unpredicted danger for our surroundings. For instance, an adjustment to a certain plant might be harmful to another organism (such as insect that relies on it for food) or to other plants being around. The drawback in this scenario is that some organism (insects and plants) help make the balance of the food chain, disturbing this order will bring obstacle in the food chain and at the same time expose the environment. According to the Human Genome Project information website, GMOs can result in unintentional transfer of genes through cross-pollination, leading to unknown effects on other organisms.
Another concern with GMOs is their potential to harm human health. Since the main concept of GMOs is to altered organism through genetic engineering techniques, it is not surprising that we might have negative consequences in Human health. Using the GMOs could potentially introduce new organism properties unknown to human bodies. For example if a plant that has properties to harm humans and is used to combine and obtain another food crop, could have severe health impacts. In the same trend, since the use of GMOs is still recent, health issues may arise later in the road due to the new properties of GMOs crops in our Organisms, so there might be an after match later in the road.
Economics issues arose because of the clash between GMOs and organic crops. GMOs have been taking over the food market in all aspect and in consequent dethrone standard crops production and consummation. Profits from these are going to multinational companies that produce them and traditional crops farmers are losing their market. The competition is getting disloyal with companies trying to get legal rights on a crop and can prohibit others to produce it without their consent. In a bigger scale developed countries which are technologies advance would likely benefit compare to developing countries which will have to update their agricultural productions to what international firms are looking for. The problem of producing genetic cotton between developing countries and developed countries few years ago illustrated well this issue.
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The last point in this section is Ethics of using GMOs. The fact of mixing animal genes into plants or from one plant to another may feel atypical or wrong to some people. Trying to come up with new species with such combinations will be like creating our own world which put us in the path of gods
4)Cost analysis of GMO's in Europe.
GMOs have high yield of crops. The genetically modified crops are different from the usual crops as it growths faster and increase the rate of crops within little time. They are referred as super crops due to their properties cited above. The World Bank showed on its report in 1998 on GMO an increase of 25% in food crop yields in the developing counties. GMOs do not just profit the developing countries but it helps developed nations as in 1999 the gene base pharmaceutical market assessed $2.2 billion for treatment of diseases once not possible was estimated to cost $8.2 billion in 2004. In 2002, a global review by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications of commercialized transgenic crops showed an increase of 21.1 million hectares between 1998 and 1999 and in 2004 almost 45 million hectares of GMO crops are grown worldwide. Around 80 developing nations in the world are not capable of satisfying their population food needs; therefore GMOs are more than welcome. It will allow improvement of food quantity and quality, increase the nutritional value of food, reduce developing nation's dependency on international aid, boost national food market, and improve the overall well-being of people. Any action intended to change nature has consequences. GMO has been proven to create some damage on earth.
Among other things, there is the loss in biodiversity. GMOs focus on just particular type of plants relying on them to produce incredible crop yield. More land has been used to grow GM crops. Out of 1.5 billion hectares of harvested cropland worldwide, 1.3 billion is already used according the United Nations Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) and 87 million acres are being harvested with GM corn worldwide. Developing countries need plants that are impermeable under any conditions with more variety of plants not just a few types producing an impressive yield. So there is a destruction of biodiversity of plant promoting only a handful of them.
5)Europe de facto moratorium on GMOs
GMOs were able to spread in Europe through agriculture starting with the first GMO crop that had been introduce. MON (810), first GMO crop to come up out of Europeans soils were approved in 1997 and five years later were grown in many Europeans countries. Unfortunately with many controversial issues, the development of GMO in Europe turned out short for some crops. Attacks by ecologist, economist and the health care sector, many Europeans started pulling back toward the use and cultivation of GMO. The last five years were imperative for the survival of GMO in Europe. Although the European Union commission approved some of the GMO crops, countries stood against it based on their beliefs. Decisions were taken to ban GMO production by some countries. Along these trials, these countries were back up in their position later on by the European commission while looking for solutions.
These choices are mainly due to the consumers' interest about food apprehension and the public trust in government inaccuracy of the food industry. Disadvantages such has food safety, health, environmental issues with the use of GMOs were enough evidences for the consumer to boycott its use. Anti- GMO activists and consumers demanded the right to be informed about their food, whether it is GMO or not. With the pressure of the consumers, the European Parliaments Committee on the environment, Public Health and Food Safety adopted measures that would protect the public. Measures such as labeling any GM ingredients in food were adopted and it also requires documentation tracing biotechnological products through the food production steps. In June 2003, the European Parliament ratified a three year old UN biosafety protocol regulating international trade in genetically modified food. The moratorium officially started with five European Union Members in 1998: France, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg. They took further steps regarding authorizations for growing and marketing GMO in their territories until favorable and strong legislation will be made by the European Union commission. They want more transparency in the labeling and traceability of GMOs and GMO-derived products.
In May 2004, the European Union's six year de facto moratorium on GMO was taken down. The most undisputed GMO in this facto known as Bt11 was approved by the commission. According to the article EU lifts de facto moratorium on GMOs the authorization will cover the specific use of Bt11 for imports of canned or fresh sweet maize and would be valid for 10 years. This approval is the first since the EU's de facto moratorium on GMOs in 1998. Despite the approval by the European Commission, EU governments failed to reach to a compromise for approving Bt11. A clash between GMO friendly countries against non-friendly GMO countries has been going on in the commissions which forbid a complete approval for the use of certain GMO.
Despite the EU approvals for commercial purpose on GMO cultivation, The ISAAA reports that only one crop variety-Bt maize has been planted in the Europeen Union, and over a tiny area. It is grown in few countries and the production has been decreasing.
6) Influence of the US and other countries
Most GMO are grown in The US and is home for most of the multinational companies producing the crops. On the contrary to Europe, GMO has favorable issues in the US. Consumers accepted its consummation widely and the financial power that the companies have made it easier. Another difference with Europe is that the United States and Canada do not require libeling of genetically modified foods. Consumers' influence is less important and anti-GMO organizations cannot influence on the food chains production. The European Union and the United States' views on GMOs are different and can be observe in EU's regulation of genetically modified food. The US claims these regulations violate free trade agreements while the opposite camp argues that there is not free trade without informed consent.
The economic power that has the US was critical in spreading the consummation and cultivation of GMO in less powerful countries. Although GMO food can be a huge help for developing countries, some of them such as Venezuela, Hungarian have decided to ban either its production or consumption.
7)Future of GMOs
The future of GMOs will depend on its geographic area. In Europe, the future of GMOs is not bright, meanwhile, in countries like the US and most of the developing countries, GMO foods still have a long way go with new experimentations on the way.
European view on GMO foods have been conservative since its introduction in the market. Mostly due to its consumers big interest and concerns in international food company. Another barrier to the GMOs expansion in Europe is the strong presence of anti-GMOs activist. Their influencial was significant to slow down the progress of GMOs expansion. Despite its advatages of providing more of an option and solutions of solving the world food probems, Europe does not ignore the other side effects of GMOs and prefer safety by selecting the adequate GMOs crop. A plan to create free zone GMOs in europe have been propose ,but it would be definitly hard for Europe to succesfully ban the total use of GMOs .Economical issues and the free trade market do not allow the continent to do such thing, although Europe still has the power to select and regule base on its own interst the GMOs needed.
http://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/gm-foods.php (Mavis Butcher)
"EU lifts de facto moratorium on GMOs". Food & Drink Weekly. FindArticles.com. 31 Oct, 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EUY/is_19_10/ai_n6367969/
ISAAA(international Service for the acquisition of AgriBiotech applications) publishes an annual review on GM agriculture.
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/genengcrops.gif, from this page: