The new-emerging problem of the growth, development, and use of genetically engineered crops has led to intense debate on the biotech agriculture. The debate is at its critical point today, because there is a need to streamline the biotech agriculture with effective legislations and policy setting. The greatest hurdle to the legislation of biotech agriculture is ethical and social issues emanating from the consumption of genetically engineered crops. The essence of this argumentative essay is to establish formidable grounds for or against the use of biotech agriculture in the modern world. The pros and cons of biotech agriculture are supported by two opposing groups; there are those who opine that it would kill the natural form of agricultural production, others argue that genetically engineered foods are not harmful for human consumption, and that the technology is economically beneficial. Most arguments; other than ethics, focus on addressing hunger, safety of the environment, and how safe consumers would be.
To start this debate with, Rauch posits that with the growth of population, the world continues to rely on agriculture to curb the rising food demand. Concerning this point of view, farming is posing danger to the existence of Mother Nature. “To farm is to make war upon millions of plants (weeds, so-called) and animals (pests, so-called) that in the ordinary course of things would crowd out or eat or infest whatever it is a farmer is growing” (Rauch 601). The author criticizes the use of fertilizers in that fertilizer runoffs are water pollutants. Besides, practicing monoculture is a risky form of agriculture as it is vulnerable to infestation by disease and pests. Pesticides too are harmful, as they can kill harmless living organisms in the soil. In addition, use of pesticides could affect health of farmers.
Rauch also refutes the adoption of organic manure, which though being harmless, is used in large quantities that may contaminate water and food (601). Traditional methods of practicing agriculture are also costly at times. For instance, traditional farmers overuse land; and with all environmental complications, agriculture only puts the planet under constant pressure. With the stipulated growth of population to 8.3 billion in 2050, environmental pressure put on the planet will increase tremendously given that the big population will also increase demand for food, and hence pets. This is because these pets must also be fed. To overcome the demands of evolving world and the hazards of agriculture, production of genetically modified crops gives hope for future generations.
Other than saving the environment and meeting world food demand, a team of scientists have successfully engineered transgenic tomato that can survive on salty water. This was a major breakthrough, considering the percentage of water that can be used to produce genetically engineered foods. In addition, “The Environmental Protection Agency approved a genetically modified corn that would resist a beetle larva, known as rootworm” (Rauch 602). This would reduce the use of pesticides in controlling America’s most problematic pest in corn production. The potential of genetically engineered foods are big; the stakes are high because research in the field is only at the initial stages.
Altieri and Rosset, on the other hand, think otherwise, they claim that the biotech will not ensure food security in the developing countries. They explain their point of view, “There is no relationship between the prevalence of hunger in a given country and its population” (Altieri, and Rosset 608). The argument is that the real course of hunger in the developing countries is lack of farm inputs and financial capital to carry out the commercial agriculture. To illustrate this opinion, the authors claim that there is a counter balance between nations that are densely populated, like Bangladesh, and those that are sparsely populated, like Indonesia.
Concerning the transgenic plants, Altieri and Rosset counter Rauch’s argument that genetically modified crops can be transgenic by insisting that, “Transgenic plants, which produce their own insecticides, closely follow the pesticide paradigm, which is itself rapidly failing due to pest resistance to insecticides” (610). This implies that while pesticide in made on one pest and according to one pesticide model, the development of genetically engineered crops is based on one gene for one pest. This does not bring any significant difference of adopting biotech agriculture.
World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over 3.5 billion people around the globe face malnutrition (Coleman 619). Other people have suggested that to solve the global food situation, there needs to be a channel for redistribution of wealth so that the poor can access crucial assets of production. This is not a real solution according to Coleman. There is a need of empowering and encouraging research by allowing sharing intellectual property. This can be possible if developing countries are given an opportunity to license their intellectual property. Protection of intellectual property is a guard against companies that aims at making profit from production of genetically engineered crops. Coleman asserts that, “This position concludes that the use of G.M.O.’s amount to moral obligation” (620).
Approach to use biotech in agricultural production will yield effective results for the global community if caution drives inventions. It is reported that in every 3.6 seconds, a person dies from hunger (Coleman 620). In addition, the sub-Saharan Africans still face malnutrition problems. However, the World Food Program’s efforts to intervene and address hunger was rejected by African regimes on the basis that the supply of corn was GMO produced in the United States with the use of biotech agriculture. If the technology can save humankind from manageable causes of death, then it would be immoral to oppose biotech agriculture.
Harrop is an ardent opponent of the adoption of biotech agriculture for a number of reasons. Regarding the safety of Genetically Modified Organism, (GMO), Harrop assures that, “I do not want GMOs on my plate for moral, ethical, emotional, religious, aesthetic, sentimental, and other reasons I haven’t thought of yet” (617). The change of perception is the greatest hurdle in the adoption of genetically engineered crops; and as Harrop opines, religion is fundamental in shaping the debate. Believers would not want to deviate from the provisions of nature by taking the role of the Creator from God. God is a supreme Power and the only Creator.
The debate on GMO has been made popular by the influence of biotech food companies that produce bioengineered crops. For instance, they opposed the labeling of food, as either GMO or natural, due to fear of losing business. If they believe that GMOs and the use of biotech is safe, then why do they fear if consumers are informed? The question remains open. According to Harrop, “Polls consistently show Americans objecting to genetically manipulated food by solid majorities, and some 93 percent of the respondents to a poll conducted for ABCNEWS.com wanted mandatory labeling of bio-engineered products” (617). However, proposal to put GMO labeling was rejected in Oregon due to political propaganda. Oregon civilians were informed that by passing the bill, the budget of the state would increase by $550 per family per annum (Harrop 617).
Coleman’s advocacy is also critical in giving credible answers to the doubts of Harrop that religion is a significant factor in the opposition of biotech agriculture. This is because the author gives account of the Roman Catholic Church following a conference that concluded that there was solid support for the use of GMOs in Rome. The Church was convinced that the food is harmless and healthy. “The Catholic Church sees deep sacramental significance in wheat and bread, and insists on the absolute imperative to feed and care for the poor of the world” (Coleman 621).
The greatest fear of consumption of genetically engineered foods is that they would be harmful to the human health. Prior to the introduction of high breed seeds, humanity was skeptical about the effect of using hybrid seeds. Today, the fear, through research and development, has waned. This is the same fear that surrounds the use and adoption of the biotech agriculture. However, with increase in research and development, the population will be convinced in another point of view, and the consumption of genetically engineered crops would reign and play a supreme role for modern and future generations.
From this experience of opinions shared on this topic, it is critical to observe the social and ethical issues that surround the use of biotech in the modern world. This is confirmed by the Oregon state, which took the labeling issue of GMOs to the referendum. Although there is evidence that most global corporations engage in the biotech production to make profit, the advantages of the technology are far reaching. That fact that biotech agriculture holds fundamental role in the fight against hunger must not be ignored. It would be immoral if humankind continues to lose life despite the advances in technology. Technology should be used in a manner that will redefine the future in a positive way. The fact that people accepted the use of hybrid seeds in agriculture, after heavy criticism on the issue, means that the opponents of the debate are simply skeptical. Hence, biotech production in agriculture is an idea whose time is ripe in curbing modern day challenge of food security. However, as mentioned above, caution must be preserved to avert potential dangers that bio technologies may pose to the global community.