Genetically Engineered Food

Author and Page information

  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Thursday, September 26, 2002

An issue that has entered the mainstream media in a lot of countries (noticeably not really in the US) is Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM) of food. A lot of food that we eat today contains genetically modified ingredients and usually without our knowledge.

Supporters of this technology maintain that it ensures and sustains food security around the world as the population increases.

As time goes on, the science behind genetic engineering is no doubt improving. Biotechnology could be the wave of the future and genetically modified foods could really provide alternatives to help increase food production. However, there is a growing wave of concern from citizens, farmers and scientists who question the way the research is currently being handled by a few large, profit-hungry corporations. That is, as well as scientific debates on the merits of genetically engineered food, there are equally, if not more important, debates on the socioeconomic ramifications of the way such science is marketed and used. Critics believe:

  • The problem of food shortages is a political and economic problem.
  • Food shortages and hunger are -- and will be -- experienced by the poorer nations.
  • GE Food is an expensive technology that the farmers of the developing nations would not be able to afford easily.
  • Patenting laws go against the poor around the world and allow biotech companies to benefit from patenting indigenous knowledge often without consent.
  • This is a very young and untested technology and may not be the answer just yet.
  • Crop uniformity, which the biotech firms are promoting, will reduce genetic diversity making them more vulnerable to disease and pests. This furthers the need for pesticides (often created by the same companies creating and promoting genetically engineered crops).

Hence this leads to questions of the motives of corporations and countries who are using the plight of the developing world as a marketing strategy to gain acceptance of GE food as well as dependency upon it via intellectual property rights. That they are against any labeling or other precautionary steps and measures that states may wish to take is of paramount concern.

The way in which we reach the answer to the question, "are GE foods safe?" is where a lot of the problem lies. A quick acceptance of GE foods without proper testing etc. could show corporate profitability to be very influential, while a thorough debate and sufficient public participation would ensure that real social and environmental concerns are in fact adhered to. And this pattern would probably indicate to us how other major issues in the future ought to be dealt with.

There is also the issue of do we actually need genetically engineered food, given that agriculture in small biodiverse farms are actually very productive. Economics and politics at all levels, (international, national and local) have often prevented food from reaching hungry people, not a lack of production. These same causes have also created, or contributed to, a lot of poverty, which prevents people from being able to afford food in the first place.

This section then, looks more into the political issues behind the emerging promotion of biotechnology and genetically modified or engineered foods.

Is GE Food Safe?

Last updated Sunday, January 20, 2002.

Read “Is GE Food Safe?” to learn more.

"GE Technologies will solve world hunger"

Last updated Sunday, January 20, 2002.

Read “"GE Technologies will solve world hunger"” to learn more.

Food Patents—Stealing Indigenous Knowledge?

Last updated Thursday, September 26, 2002.

Read “Food Patents—Stealing Indigenous Knowledge?” to learn more.

GE Food Media Coverage

Last updated Saturday, June 01, 2002.

Read “GE Food Media Coverage” to learn more.

Functional Foods—the next wave of GE foods

Last updated Tuesday, May 28, 2002.

Read “Functional Foods—the next wave of GE foods” to learn more.

Terminator Technology

Last updated Saturday, July 14, 2001.

Read “Terminator Technology” to learn more.

Monsanto—a major player in GE Technology

Last updated Sunday, March 11, 2001.

Read “Monsanto—a major player in GE Technology” to learn more.

Public Concerns and Protests on GE Food

Last updated Friday, January 18, 2002.

Read “Public Concerns and Protests on GE Food” to learn more.

Genetically Engineered Food Links for more Information

Last updated Thursday, January 17, 2002.

Read “Genetically Engineered Food Links for more Information” to learn more.

World hunger related links for more information

Last updated Monday, December 10, 2007.

Links to web sites and articles that discuss world hunger, the relationship between populations and hunger, of poverty and hunger, agricultural issues, land rights and so on.

Read “World hunger related links for more information” to learn more.

Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Monday, July 20, 1998
  • Last Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2002

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