What are Genetically Modified Crops?
Genetically modified crops (GMCs), are the crops used in agriculture whose genetic makeup has been altered to suit a specific purpose. This purpose can be resistance to certain pesticides, insects, chemical agents, environmental conditions etc. Genetically modified crops have drastically improved the qualities of certain crops like maize, potato, and soybean. At the same time, GMCs have come under increasing criticism due to companies creating a monopoly out of crops and because of suspicion behind genetic engineering.
A strong movement in opposition to GMOs has been brewing in the European Union (EU). This movement has led to hostility towards imported genetically modified crops. What gives rise to such hostility? Is it for scientific or economic reasons? A better understanding of the opposition movement is required to understand this issue.
The Opposition Movement:
When Genetically Modified Organisms were publicized in the late 1960s, the confidence in the institutions was not particularly high. Public opinion was affected due to the outbreak of diseases like HIV AIDS, Mad Cow disease, asbestos etc. Hence, growing attention was paid to warnings by various organizations against GMOs. This view was also endorsed by influential media personalities which further polarised public opinion
The primary GMC crops in Europe are maize and Ampflora. It is noticed that Spain and Portugal are more tolerant towards to GMOs in comparison to France and some Nordic countries. If a scientific basis is to be followed, many of the EU nations show skepticism towards GMOs and wish to perform tests on them to verify the crops. This is evident by the stance of countries like Russia on GMOs.
Economy and GMO:
Another aspect to look at this ban is from an economic point of view. The ban on GMOs allows the EU to act as an autonomous region through its politics on food security. In spite of the popular belief that a ban on GMO imports was meant for consumer protection, the ban reflects economic protectionism and prevents dependency on foreign seed manufacturers. This maintains the EU’s self-sufficiency in the agricultural sector. In order to make sure the EU is self-sufficient in the food production industry, it must also be made sure that it is not dependent on foreign seed manufacturers like Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont. These are all corporations from the United States.
Thus, we see that there exist two possible reasons for the EU’s opposition to GMOs. Is it scientific in nature or economic? Or is a scientific reason given to complement the economic one? GMOs have been proven safe to use in the past and their use is widespread. The EU is also striving for self-sufficiency. Yet we need more compelling evidence from both sides of the argument to assert which is the actual reason.