Social Implications

Conflicting Opinions

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Currently, there is a trade war brewing between the US and Europe. This is due to the seemingly untrustworthy biotechnology industry in America. There are reasons for why lack of agreement concerning the issue has occurred. Many anti-GM individuals from Europe and America include those who believe that the industry should be compared to the DDT experimentation in the late 40's. The most vocal individuals are European or social activists in America, including farmers who fear losing ownership of their crops. It makes sense to compare the technology to the DDT incident, as we are still in the stage where we do not know enough about Genetically Modified foods in order to understand the long-term implications. Scientists do not know how these engineered foods impact human health and food chains within ecosystems. Even now, when there are statements by the FDA that the foods have no negative impact on humans, there is concern because companies like Monsanto and Novartis are not looking at the risks before profit. The result of this might be as devistating as the toxic effect of DDT. Thus, European consumers demand labels on all GM foods being exported from America, however, there is little agreement as to whether or not labeling will occur.

Europe, together with New Zealand, Australia, and Japan are not likely to stop demanding labeling. This protest will cause big problems for the US trade industry. The press in the US is quite different than that in Europe and other anti-GM countries, leading to a difference in levels of awareness and activism. People want security, and the only way the they will feel safe is if they know what they are eating and how it effects their body. "In the vast majority of cases, a label is not required because FDA sees no significant difference between food made from genetically modified crops and traditional varieties (Palmer)." The FDA fails to reveal that each time a gene is inserted into a living organism, random and uncontrolled events occur, such as mutagenesis within living intracellular metabolisms. The chain reaction of such incidences can lead to vegetables that are allergenic, toxic, or low in nutritional value. It is impossible to predict what each genetic modification will do, which is why the technology at this point may easily be compared to the once unknown implications of DDT. Similarly, the biotechnology has become a huge marketing ploy.

Why might there be such a difference in opinion about this issue? There is reason to believe that the level of exposure to the GM issue of citizens from other countries have resulted in more outrage overseas. However, various US opinions claim that foreigners are seeking a powerful economy and feel they can accomplish this by affecting US agriculture production. The latter opinion is justified by the fact that "U.S. corn farmers have lost $200 million in annual sales to the European Union in recent years because the European Commission has been much slower to approve new varieties than have U.S. regulatory officials (Palmer)." Opinions are also based on the level of experience other countries have with biotechnology sciences versus the US. Among the people who believe that Europe lacks scientific credibility are those within the large corporations which head the GM force. They believe that because Europe does not have much background in the GM field, constituents in Europe have more uncertainty as to what the benefits of GM technology are.

Americans have less awareness about reasons for the anti-GM movement, and it is most likely because of the censorship that has frequently been controlled by the agriculture industry. Within the past four years the biggest defenders of biotechnology have been the farmers. They were painted a very blue picture by the industry and were convinced that the benefits outweighed the costs. This is still an existing opinion held by many of the nations farmers, but now that the promised results have not occurred, the promotions of biotechnology have kept them locked into the system. Despite potential benefits of the technology, the farmer's pockets are feeling the negative implications,as they now have to spend millions of dollars in order to react to the mistrust of people abroad who pose a strong resistance to their produce. Media is finally finding room to fit in the other side of the story. The powerful risks involved with GM foods are being unveiled to America, as more telecommunication networks such as CBS and NBC have brought attention to the issue.

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