Economics Period 6
We live in a culture where abundance is often seen as the best possible outcome, but over production is often the result. Society’s message is that Abundance is better than scarcity. Today, there is an over production of goods such as clothes, make up and toys. But what most people don’t know, is that there is also an over production of food. Though it’s hard to believe because there are still so many impoverished and hunger stricken countries, as a society, we do produce enough food for all 7 billion of us. This abundance of food production has partially occurred because of GMOs.
When we think of developing technology, we often neglect to consider technologies that affect our food supply. Just like computers have been modified since they were first invented, the foods we find in grocery store have also been modified. When a food product is modified, it is considered a GMO. “Genetically modified organisms are experimental plants or animals that have been genetically engineered in a laboratory with DNA from other plants, animals, bacteria and viruses.”4 Today, 80% of packaged food produced in the United States contains GMOs. Up to 85% of US corn is genetically modified.3 This is just one of the many examples of how much our daily lives are impacted by the relatively new technology. It is easy for us as humans to think that technology will always be at our exposure for our benefit. We have come to believe this because of the recent improvements of technology that have simplified our lives. In addition, we are constantly brainwashed to believe that the more, the better. Yet, it is crucial to look at both the pros and the cons before deciding if all technologies, including GMOs are truly a benefit to society. After all, scarcity does override abundance.
GMOs already come with a negative connotation. But why are GMOs so negatively condemned? Ever since the first patent for GMO was created in the 1980s, an ongoing debated continues today on whether or not GMOs really benefit our society.2 Even today, there is no final answer. The debate about GMOs is still unsettled because of several pros and cons that weigh heavily on both sides of the situation. One claimed pro of GMO foods is that through genetic modifications, vitamins and minerals are added in order to provide greater nutritive benefits. In addition, the government and agribusinesses of the United States and Canada have stated that GMOs are the answer to the end of world hunger.4 Monsanto advertisement, one of the largest agribusinesses located here in the United States, recently stated that “Biotechnology is one of tomorrow’s tools in our hands today. Slowing its acceptance is a luxury our hungry world cannot afford.”5 As stated before, in reality there is an over production of food in the world today; therefore, this excuse to continue using GMOs is not accurate. Another pro is that flavors are enhanced making previously undesired foods more desirable.4 Though this is an advantage to producers in the sense that consumers are more likely to buy their products, these enhancements are proven to increase the risk of food-related allergies. An example of a food that has caused a great increase in allergies because of modifications is soy. Soy, along with other GMOs, is also fed to animals. When someone allergic to soy eats meat from an animal that ate the GMOs, they will have an allergic reaction to the meat as well. This ripple effect has already occurred in several cases changing lives of civilians for the worse. Along with new allergies, GMOs may also increase the risk of various types of cancer and other diseases.
So in the end, what do we know about GMOs? There are two distinct sides, those who are for genetically modified organisms, and those against it. Even though there is no final right or wrong, which answer should society move towards? The United States and Canada appear to have a firm stance in the sense that both countries have stated that these genetically engineered food sources are not only safe, but they are also more resistant to diseases and will provide alimentation to the starving nations. On the other hand, the European Union, along with Australia, Japan, and other countries have stated that they much prefer organic foods.4 Not only is it healthier, but it is believed that the only benefactors from GMOs are multinational companies that take diminish the income of the traditional small town farmers.4 Even though Organic goods are more expensive for producers and consumers, the benefits are worth it. Currently, there is a scarcity of organic food compared to GMOs.
During a time where there is no definite right or wrong, it is to our benefit to consider ideas that have been around for a while. To back up points that are previously stated, let us consider Frederic Bastiat’s, the author of Economic Sophisms Abundance and Scarcity, ideas. He is the one responsible of the idea that scarcity should be preferred over abundance.6
How does Bastiat and the GMO debate relate? There are several reasons why scarcity overrules abundance, and these ideas prove that GMOs are more harmful than good. As stated previously, agribusinesses try to advertise their patents as a good investment because they falsely say that they have the solution to end world hunger. Research shows that the world produces 17% more food than necessary. It is estimated that with this amount of agriculture produced on a daily basis, each human should have accessibility to three squares of land, per day!4 This unnecessary abundance does not benefit anyone. “When a produce is plentiful, it sells at a low price, thus the producer earns less.”6 What Bastiat is trying to say is that if producers find themselves in this situation, they become poverty-stricken, making abundance the cause of a ruined society. In addition, Bastiat states that, “man produces in order to consume. He is at once both producer and consumer.”6 According to Bastiat’s reasoning, “the consumer becomes richer in proportion as he buys everything more cheaply.”6 Though some may argue in this case that GMOs are therefore beneficial, the health risks overweigh these advantages. On the producer’s side, it is clear that an abundance of production will eventually harm them as well. Scarcity is preferred since, after all “as sellers, [agribusinesses] are interested in high prices, and consequently, in scarcity.”6 In other words, neither side has real benefactors from GMOs.
Since agribusinesses started to realize that they would soon have to sell their produce very cheaply, they took their DNA experimentation one step forward. Many of these large businesses have created a suicide gene. This means that once a crop is grown, new seeds cannot be used to plant more of the same crop.3 This forces farmers to continue to buy seeds from agribusinesses endlessly. Even with the advanced technology of the suicide gene, “GM crops have cost the United States and estimated $12 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recall due to transgenic contamination.”1
As we have come to see, the GMO debate still doesn’t have a firm answer because there are so many points to consider. Yet, with the help of Frederic Bastiat’s idea of Scarcity over abundance, we are one step closer. If his idea is taken into consideration, GMOs will stop being produced. Not only is food over produced, but has started to lose its market value as a result. All in all, the best way to go is organic. Not only is organic food safe from new allergic or sickness reactions, it benefits producers as well. This way it is a double win for both consumers and producers. As GMOs have started to shed more light, organic food demand has reportedly increased. Though it seems that our society is stuck in this debate, an increase of demand for organic food is a step in the right direction.
1. Andre Goenawan, Jon Faerber, Shogo Osawa, Terrell Edwards, “Genetically Modified Foods,” UCSC Classes, June 6 2005, http://classes.soe.ucsc.edu/cmpe080e/Spring05/projects/gmo/index.htm.
2. GL Woolsey, “We Deserve to Know what is in our Food!” GMOINSIDE, September 13 2012, http://gmoinside.org/gmo-timeline-a-history-genetically-modified-foods/.
3. “About Genetically Engineered Foods,” Center for Food Safety, 2014, http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/311/ge-foods/about-ge-foods#.
4. “Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods,” Health Research Funding, December 4 2014, http://healthresearchfunding.org/pros-cons-genetically-modified-foods/.
5. John Robbins, “Are Genetically Altered Foods The Answer to World Hunger?” Earth Island Institute, May 5 2014, http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/are_genetically_altered_foods_the_answer_to_world_hunger/.
6. Frederic Bastiat, Economic Sophisms Abundance & Scarcity (1801 AD-1850 AD)
7. “Understanding GMOs & What it Means for Food” The Honest Companty Blog, October 30 2012, http://blog.honest.com/understanding-gmos/#.U2hX1oFdWSp.