Political Implications

The United States Perspective on Genetically Modified Foods

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The Agriculture Adjustment Act, which granted higher profits for the farmers, was a response to the crisis of the time purposed by President Roosevelt. The money was helpful but the problems did not diminish. From about 1930 until now, the number of farmers in the industry slowly decreased because of the low profits of the business. Now a family pays about $1,000 a year, on average, to support the farming industry by means of raised food prices and taxes. The agriculture business is being dominated by bigger businesses that can survive crises that may arise unexpectedly. The introduction of genetic engineering in the food industry has enhanced the affects the bigger agricultural business have on the United States. This limits the United States variation of farming practices causing the methods of genetic engineering to dominate.

As of now, the Food and Drug Administration, (FDA), of the United States views genetically modified foods the same as natural foods. In May of 1998, a correlation of scientists, religious leaders and public interest groups filed a law suit against the FDA to apply mandatory safety testing and labeling of genetically modified foods which do not exist now. The FDA admitted to favoring the biotech industry with it's current regulations. Their own scientists warn that genetic engineering practices are much different from conventional methods and that they produce their own risks. The FDA is ignoring the fact that bioengineering produces toxins and allergens different than natural ones. Statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture in 1997 show that the plantings of genetically altered soybeans resistant to herbicide, better known as Roundup Ready, caused a 72% increase in the use of glycophosphate, the herbicide. Plants, which are genetically engineered to be tolerant to herbicide, will triple the amount of herbicide used currently. The United States is attempting to change biotechnology's current situation, but the country seems to be failing possibly due to the fact it has been neglected for so many years, since the introduction of recombinant DNA in 1973. In February of 1999, 170 countries got together to try to restrict the global flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of genetically modified products, being the world's first response to regulate the diffusion of genetically altered organisms. Unfortunately, the United States had no official position in the week long talks because the U. S. Senate did not ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity. President Clinton had signed the porposal way back in 1993, but the U.S. has significant concerns pertaining to this, which have slowed the Senate approval. The U.S. government has the difficult and contradictory role of being the regulator for food safety, and at the same time they are trying to promote the business interests of the large biotechnology firms. These differing roles can be seen very clearly in a speech given by the secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman in July of this year. Click here for the full text of the speech.

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