Globalization affects everyone. The shrinking world brings people in the United States closer to ideas and cultures from all corners of the earth. Likewise, other countries are introduced to many facets of the American life and that way of life includes genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The use of GMOs in food originated in America and while much of the West has banned their use, the developing world is taking part – to their detriment.
Genetically engineered crops came to the market in America in the mid 90s. With much help from the FDA, who didn’t require additional labeling, due to their concept of “substantial equivalence,” the consumer was none the wiser. Basically, the FDA didn’t find it necessary to inform consumers of GMO use through labeling because they didn’t see any significant difference between GMOs and conventional crops.
Fast forward to modern day. The use of GMOs in food has been problematic. Super weeds are destroying farmers’ fields; only a handful of multinational corporations own the patents to these crops; biodiversity is diminishing. What’s more, these crops have yet to be found safe for long-term human consumption in any independent studies. This is because the studies are done by the corporation responsible for the technology which allows for a severe bias. America is exceedingly at the whim of these mega-conglomerates who are making very large claims. Genetic engineering is the future of food; it is supposed to help alleviate world hunger, produce larger yields, resist pests without a lot of pesticides, and help reduce farmers’ labor. The technology is now being pawned off to the developing world as a solution to their poverty and hunger. How do these claims stack up? And are these corporations really helping the third world?
GMOs in Haiti
To get a better understanding of how the developing world is grappling with the GMO debacle, let’s look at how several developing countries have adapted. One biotech corporation donated 475 tons of hybrid vegetable seeds, some treated with chemicals so toxic that agricultural workers have to wear special protective clothing, to impoverished Haiti. You would imagine that such a poor country would be grateful for donated seeds. In fact, the opposite holds true. Intense opposition ensued; with the promise to burn the seeds as they are, “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds … and on what is left our environment in Haiti,” claims a Haitian peasant farmer and activist.
Bt cotton in China and Indonesia
The claims weren’t substantiated in China either. According to one study, their use of Bt cotton over seven years has increased the need for fertilizer and irrigation water; additionally, “Bt cotton is expected to increase the incidence of primary pest bollworms, which could develop resistance and develop secondary pests like caterpillars,” one study claims.
Indonesia, also using Bt cotton, pulled the plug on the crop and switched to a non-GMO variety when it didn’t produce the promised yields. In addition to smaller yields, a significant amount of the planted crop experienced total harvest failure. As if this weren’t enough to put the farmers into debt, the company selling the seeds raised the prices, and trapped in a contract, as is the norm when using GMO seeds, the farmers had to acquiesce.
African sweet potatoes
GMO sweet potatoes were introduced into Africa with the claim they were resistant to a specific type of virus. In fact, they were just as susceptible to the virus as conventional sweet potatoes and contrarily, a sweet potato was produced through cross-breeding that actually resisted the virus.
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