Food Crisis to Impact Bioengineering Industry

Even though the issue of the food crisis in American has been put on the backburner, it is not over yet. As food prices soar, countries and governing bodies are being forced to find new ways of improving their agricultural system.

This may be beneficial to the biotechnology industry, which sees genetically modified foods as the answer. Biotechnology giants like Monsanto offer strains of seeds that are resistant to heat, insecticides, herbicides, and disease. Corporations such as these present Washington with an extremely powerful lobby-one that often muffles the welfare of the American consumer.

The U.S. now produces 55% of the world’s genetically modified (GM) foods. In fact, the U.S. media has notably shown little interest in the matter. This is opposed to other developed countries that do not exclusively associate “GM” with General Motors. The US and a small handful of others have complained to the WTO that Europe’s ban on GM foods is not in accordance with fair trade. The WTO subsequently ruled that these bans are in violation of WTO policy.

The United States Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer is on board with this type of biological engineering. He states, “Biotechnology is one of the most promising tools for improving the productivity of agriculture and increasing the incomes of the rural poor.”

On the other hand, Europe has long been on the forefront of opposing genetically modified (GM) foods. This past March, the European Union expressed a continuance of their stance as they allowed two countries (Austria and Hungary) to ban seeds produced by Monsanto. As of now, Europe is responsible for cultivating only 1% of the world’s GM foods. The general public in Europe has little interest in what many refer to as “Frankenfoods”.

Other countries, such as Japan and South Korea, have traditionally opposed the use of genetic engineering in their food supply. However, the food crisis has them and many others rethinking their position. They are now allowing the cultivation of GM corn for commercial use. The challenge is to weigh the costs of economic feasibility and consumer backlash.

However, the question is still not answered as to why the US sees little threat from bioengineering, while other countries are reluctant to jump on the GM train. This became evident when products like rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) were introduced to the FDA. This engineered hormone increases milk production in cows. With no long-term research proving its safety, the FDA approved it. The hormone soon flooded the market, as the average consumer remained indifferent and/or unaware.

Opponents of genetically modified foods find their primary argument in the fact that such little research has been done on the safety of these foods. There is also the risk of threatening biodiversity and producing undesirable genes. Others allege that bioengineering is like playing God. Opposing views on the subject will likely be irreconcilable.

Whatever the case, the food shortage has left many governing bodies considering alternatives to conventional farming. Consumers can expect fewer policies that regulate bioengineering in the future.