Social Implications

What about Ecological and Third-World Impacts in the Media?

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Ecological impacts of genetically modified foods have been lacking in the media. Also being neglected are the social impacts on the small farmers residing in third world countries such as Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, and Belize. Currently, most of the hype covers conflicts concerning trade issues between Europe and the US. Due to the fears over seas, there is an abundance of press concerning the consumer's right to know what they eat, and the movement towards GM food labeling laws. These issues are very important, but missing amongst most of the articles are the impacts on the local and humble citizens of third world countries. These nations'natural, economic, and social integrity are suffering due to consequences caused by agro-industries, such as Monsanto and Novartis. An article published in the Washington DC-based "Inter-press Service English News Wire" on September 21, 1999 has successfully interpreted what is occurring in areas commonly avoided in the mass media loop. This article is called "Agriculture: Biotechnology Threatens Food Security, Report Says." Among many others recently published, this article is one of the few pieces which has pin pointed some real and pressing issues that are effecting some of the most critical areas consisting of hard working traditional farmers and the natural environments rich in bio-diversity.

One of the arguments made most commonly is that biotechnology is an amazing advancement because it will solve world hunger. The article counters the effect of this argument by informing the readers of a new study which has recently emerged. It warns us of the "widespread losses of plant species," and "varieties which are eroding the foundations of agriculture productivity (Inter Press Service English News Wire)." The article bases its support on the scientific report recently completed by the scientist, John Tuxill. Biotechnology, while having some good potential, also has a great implication leading to the continuing loss of bio-diversity. This is evident by the fact that in 1949 there were an estimated 10,000 wheat varieties growing in China, but by the 1970's the number dropped to around 1,000. The article also mentions the fact that in Mexico there is only 20% of the corn varieties they cultivated in the 1930's(Inter Press Service English News Wire). An important point is that genetic diversity of cultivating plants is essential for breading more productive and disease resistant crop varieties world-wide.

Another important point the article makes is the fact that worldwide, 3.5 billion people in developing countries depend on plant-based medicine for their primary health care. The article states that "one out of every four medicines prescribed in the United States is based on a chemical compound originally found in a plants(Inter Press Service English News Wire)." This statement is based one of Tuxill's findings. Interesting enough, this article also pays attention to the developing countries, unlike many other reviews of biotechnology. The urgency is that rural residents in developing countries depend on plant resources for up to 90 percent of their total material needs. This should be critical information to the masses, as it affects the lives of those living in developed nations, especially as there is an unprecedented mass extinction occurring. The plants that we are most reliant upon are declining, and it is important to note that most mass media does not pay as much attention to these incidents. The loss of critical plant species is important to crop breeders as they often need to turn to wild relatives of crops for key traits, like disease resistance, when they cannot find those traits in cultivated varieties(Tuxill).

Work is being done in countries such as Ethiopia, India, Mexico, and Belize to try and preserve the native plant species. The effort in helping these countries prevent environmental, economic, and social deprivation is also going towards perserving biodiversity. In the article, Tuxill supports efforts such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which is helping create initiatives for policies which manage plant resources wisely. The World Trade Organization, on the other hand is reported as being an anti-protective agent, as they believe that such policies would be barriers to trade.

It is important to note the ecological implications of genetic modification, as there are many negative implications that can occur, and are likely to occur, if the value of bio-diversity is overlooked. This article has touched upon many real and critical issues that effect the quality of life for those living in developing countries, and also effect the citizens of corporate United States of America.

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