According to the World Food Programme (2012), almost 870 million people do not have the capacity to eat enough, majority of them living in developing countries. At least 564 million of the world’s hungry people currently reside in Asia or Oceania. In terms of gender, women comprise 60% of the entire number of the world’s hungry. Children have also been a victim of hunger around the globe as it fostered malnutrition and under nutrition, killing five million kids under the age of five from developing nations (World Food Programme, 2012). There have been proposals that most of the nations having problems producing food alternatives such as the use of GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms for food production. While GMOs could indeed resolve the problem of global food production to satiate world hunger, the drastic environmental and physical effects it could bestow on any country that would harvest GMOs can both contaminate and foster disease for biodiversity and the planet.
According to Turley and Thompson (2012), genetically modified organisms or GMOs are organisms which have been altered to acquire traits that come from other genes. Developments of GMOs are mostly done through molecular biology as the crops would have to be modified to resist any weather and pest, growing stronger than the average crop. Breeding also facilitates crop modification that is capable of reducing growth period and maturity levels. One of the notable genes seen in GMOs is the bacillus thuringiensis or the B.t gene, capable of producing bacteria that can enable pesticide resistance. GMOs is also modified to ensure that the mRNA interference would be inserted in the modified crop. Modification of genes for GMOs is also capable of modifying taste, smell, and poison resistance. It has been pointed out by various studies that GMOs are also modified so they would be sterile to reduce possible instances of pollination and prevent the inhabitation of viruses (Turley & Thompson, 2012).
GMOs are most often seen as an alternative to food production due to the current complications of global warming and the increasing demand for food. Wu and Butz (2004) noted that GMOs are easier to use than regular crops as they are capable of withstanding any given condition and environment, having protection against pesticides and other similar substances. Farmers would then save time and money as they do not need to maintain pesticides or herbicides to their crops. Consumers, on their end, would also not need to pay large amounts of money to purchase GMOs as farmers would allow consumers to purchase it in a lower cost with the savings they have attained. GMOs are also seen with medical and health benefits as some are modified to contain nutrients not usually found in the food species (Wu & Butz, 2004). However, there are also severe effects upon the use of GMOs as noted by Whitman (2003). Some studies have showcased that GMOs contain allergen and toxins that could be fatal if consumed. The World Health Organization even noted in its own report that GMOs present direct risks to human health and even development. GMOs are also capable of causing environmental risks, threatening biodiversity and gene flow. Gene flow covers movement of foreign genes and how it would affect other plants and species. Foreign genes acquired by other plants or found in GMOs may be passed to humans. Superweeds and superpests would also be bred from GMOs, which may cause problems in growing other types of crops which are now modified. Additional toxins coming from GMOs and poison for super pests is also prone in contaminating other plant life, causing new strain of pathogens to develop and become incurable once it is consumed (Whitman, 2003).
According to the World Food Programme (2012), India is the current home of 25% of the world’s hungry and poor. Government studies and related assessments have also noted that the country itself is capable of producing food for the entire population. However, with several parts of India still isolated from government outreach and development, many of the Indians still remain hungry. According to the statistics noted by the WFP, as noted by the Indian government, at least 43% of children under five years old are discovered to be malnourished and pregnant women under the ages 15-49 years old suffer from anemia. The studies have also pointed out that hunger statistics around the country vary from interstates depending on their social status and communities. It has been cited that the regions of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are suffering in high cases of hunger. The WFP also reports that the price of food in India is high for 42% of its population living with only USD 1.25 per day for the entire family (World Food Programme, 2012).
With the GMOs or the genetically modified organisms utilized in various parts of the globe, India became the 16th nation to accept GMO commercialization in March 26, 2002. According to Herring (2005) India’s adoption of the GMOs for commercialization was met in scrutiny due to its content and technology use. Nonetheless, since its entrance to the Indian market in 2002, GMOs became dominant in various regions in the country. Despite the opposition to GMOs, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapayee announced on September 7, 2001 that the country would be welcoming biotechnology as the country’s main tool to design the future, especially for the poor. Biotechnology would be developed to fight diseases, increase production, and protect the environment. Frew, Kettler, and Singer (2008) even cited that the government had approved a rather questionable strategy known as the National Biotechnology Development framework that would have an estimate of $1.6 billion. The framework is said to include the creation of a national biotechnology regulatory authority that would act as the administration to give out clearance, partnerships, information gathering, research and promotion of the biotechnology sector (Frew, Kettler, & Singer, 2008).
Indian farmers have immediately shot down the proposals for GMO use around the country. Trial crops had been burnt, and various protests had called that GMO use was against their national independence, and their livelihood is being dominated by MNCs, such as Monsanto. There is also the common consensus with the Indian agricultural sector and the public that GMOs could become a threat to nature and biodiversity. Monsanto had also been subjected into massive opposition from the Indians since 1998 as the company launched biocultural abominations in India, also known as suicide seeds as noted by the Rural Advancement Foundation International. The suicide seeds or the “terminator” would originally foster the creation of new seeds from plants incapable of production; however, it was taken out of context due to its nickname. Social tragedies were also rampant once Monsanto made its move as farmers from the Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh had committed suicide due to debt by using GMOs. With the increasing suicide cases linked to GMOs, the Indian government banned the terminator seeds despite efforts of Monsanto to prove it was not their fault that suicides had happened in the country. Nonetheless, several protests had withheld up to the present time against GMOs in India (Herring, 2005).
Recently, the issue on GMOs in India had been placed on the spotlight as noted by the report of India’s The Economic Times (2012). The Association of Biotech Led Enterprises-Agriculture Group had argued that the report done by the SC appointed committee regarding GM crops held unrealistic biases and lacked the scientific analysis. The SC report recommended that a 10-year moratorium must be done to all GMO trials around the country. The Association noted that if the recommendation is to be administered by the Indian government, Indian farmers would lose access to GMO technology’s benefits, especially from B.t cotton. However, the SC report cited that the regulatory protocols used by biotechnology companies was inadequate and would only open risks to the country, thus the moratorium for restructuring these policies (The Economic Times, 2012). Sewell (2012) noted that protests against Monsanto have continued on in India as the firm continues corn field trials in Haryana. Dr. Ramkumar, a retired Senior Scientist in Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, stressed that GMOs would eventually lead to super weeds that could be detrimental for farmers. He also cited that Monsanto’s Glyphosate herbicide is considered dangerous as it could cause cancer, birth defects and other foodborne diseases if used by the public. The Chairperson of the Svashaasan Mission in Haraya Sunder Lal even stressed that GM crops would pose not only a threat to the public’s health but also to the livelihood of the public (Sewell, 2012).
India’s pending decision of banning GMOs warrants reality that the technology involving genetically modified food still needs to be examined. As noted by government and international studies, India itself could still produce the food demand that would cover the entire population, both rich and poor. Implementing the use of GMOs in the region can also cause severe changes for the Indian soil as the possible contamination from GMO use could convert arable lands into barren lands unfit for food production. In the United States, banning Monsanto and every other GMO distributor would present both economic and social risks as millions of dollars are generated from these companies and the US has to accommodate to almost 300 million people. What can be done by the US to restrict and limit the negative consequences of GMOs is to impose stricter policies in the modification of GMOs, trial production and adherence to stricter health requirements that would reduce risks of untested and unsafe GMOs to enter the market. Monsanto, for example, must be given sanctions for the risks it has given to each nation that had tried out their GMO system. Monsanto must be held liable for all the issues it has brought to nations which have used their products.
Frew, S., Kettler, H., & Singer, P. (2008). The Indian and Chinese Health Biotechnology Industry: Potential Champions of Global Health. Health Affairs Online Journal, 27(8), 1029-1041.
Herring, R. (2005). Miracle Seeds, Suicide Seeds, and the Poor. In R. Ray, & M. F. Katzenstein, Social Movements in India: Poverty, Power, and Politics (pp. 203-232). Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Sewell, A. (2012, October 23). Indian farmers protest Monsanto GMO corn field trial in Haryana. Retrieved November 4, 2012, from Digital Journal: http://digitaljournal.com/article/335327
The Economic Times. (2012, October 19). Panel report on GM crops lacks focus: Bio-tech companies. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from India Times: The Economic Times: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/agriculture/panel-report-on-gm-crops-lacks-focus-biotech-companies/articleshow/16882279.cms
Turley, J., & Thompson, J. (2012). Nutrition Your Life Science. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Whitman, D. (2003, April). Genetically Modified Foods: Helpful or Harmful? Retrieved March 4, 2012, from CSA Discovery Guides: http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/review.pdf
World Food Programme. (2012). Hunger Stats. Retrieved November 2, 2012, from World Food Programme: http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats
World Food Programme. (2012). India. Retrieved November 4, 2012, from World Food Programme: http://www.wfp.org/countries/india/home
Wu, F., & Butz, W. (2004). The future of genetically modified crops: lessons from the Green Revolution. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.