The first commercial genetically
modified (GM) crops were planted in 1994 (tomatoes), 1996 was the first year in
which a significant area of crops containing GM traits was planted (1.66 million
hectares). Since then there has been a significant increase in plantings and by
2012, the global planted area reached over 160 million hectares.
Tanzania planted its first genetically modified maize
research trials October 2016, under an initiative that is building a new model
for advancing agricultural innovation through public-private partnerships.
Previously officially free of genetically modified organisms
(GMOs), Tanzania is progressively opening the door to GM biotechnology.
Tanzania, the multinational agricultural biotechnology company, plans to open
Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds production facility in the country.
3,000 tons of GMO seeds have been sold by his company so far and that local
farmers find the new variety more reliable,
profitable and easy to manage than traditional seedlings. Monsanto intends to
work with the Agricultural Seeds Agency (ASA).
believes the genetically modified seeds will help transform the agriculture
sector in the country in line with improving local farmers’ lives. Deputy
Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr William Ole Nasha who
graced the Monsanto Tanzania Office launch in Arusha said the country still
faces seed shortages.
needs 212,300 tons of seeds per every season but only managed to get 36,000
tons, of which 21,000 tons are produced locally while 15,000 tons are imported.
According to the Deputy Minister the country geared on increasing seeds
production to reach 40,000 tons this year.
Economics of GMO’s
Genetically modified organisms
(GMO’s) are quickly spreading throughout today’s economy. A GMO is an organism
that has altered genetic material through genetic engineering. Altering genetic
material consists of mutation, insertion, or deletion of the genes.
Specifically, the gene that is needed for the GMO is cut out and isolated from
the original organism, which is called a trans-gene. This is done through
restriction enzymes, which are able to recognize the specific sequences in the
genome and then cut it at those places. An enzyme called restriction
endonuclease scans the DNA strand for a specific target sequence, and when it
is found, the restriction endonuclease cuts the DNA at that specific point.
This trans-gene is then inserted into normal organisms (host organisms) to make
Since host organisms are designed to
reject foreign material, scientists use the genomes (DNA) of viruses or
bacteria that aren’t rejected, where they remove the genetic material that
causes harm but leave the genes that can enter into host organisms. When the
scientists add this genetic sequence to the trans-gene, it can then be inserted
into the host organisms with no problem. These genetically modified organisms
are then more resistant to droughts, pests, and rain. This is the first time
viruses and bacteria have been a part of the human food supply, and are grown
GMOs are Being Developed and its Advantages:
Companies have been producing and
selling genetically modified organisms since 1976, when technological
innovations such as biotechnology made it possible. Multinational companies are
using modern biotechnology to create GMOs, intending to maximize their profits.
Currently, most GMOs are grown or made in industrialized countries, and
developing countries are importing them.
GMOs are famously used in the production of pharmaceutical
drugs, experimental medicine, and agriculture. GMOs are touted as the solution
to many problems like world hunger and disease.
There are many explanations for the
growing prominence of GMOs (food and Other
There are reduced costs for food and drug production or
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service did The 1998 Iowa Crop Survey
where they collected information through personal interviews with about 800
famers. “Farmers who did not use GMO varieties in 1998 reported a slightly
higher yield than those who used GMO varieties. The average yield for non-GMO
soybeans was 51.21 bushels per acre; the average yield for GMO soybeans was
49.26. However, farmers who used GMO varieties experienced significant savings
in herbicide usage, using nearly 30 percent less than farmers who grew non-GMO
soybeans. Farmers using GMOs held a cost advantage in all aspects of weed
The use of pesticides has dramatically
decreased because of genetically modified food production. The US
Department of Agriculture did a study in 2006, using data from 1997 and said:
“Overall pesticide use on corn,
soybeans, and cotton declined by about 2.5 million pounds, despite the slight
increase in the amount of herbicides applied to soybeans. In addition,
glyphosate Roundup used on HT crops is less than one-third as toxic to
humans, and not as likely to persist in the environment as the herbicides it
This data shows that there was about
a 6.2% decrease in the use of pesticides between the time there were no GMOs
and in 1997 when GMO’s were created. Also, “In 1980, roughly 1.1 billion pounds
of active ingredients were applied at a cost of roughly $7.1 billion (in
inflation-adjusted dollars). In comparison, in 2007, roughly 877 million pounds
of active ingredients were applied to U.S. cropland at a cost of roughly $7.9
billion. During 1980-2007 the aggregate quantity of pesticides applied in the
2 Duffy, Mike. “Does Planting GMO
Seed Boost Farmers’ Profits?” Leopold
Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
Iowa State University, n.d. Web. 03 May 2014.
declined at an average rate of 0.6
percent per year, while inflation-adjusted expenditures increased 0.6 percent
per year. “3 (US Department of Agriculture)
Many animals and crops have been
genetically engineered through biotechnology to have greater resistance to diseases and pests. For example, salmon have
been genetically modified to grow faster and larger. Also, all cattle have
equal susceptibility to mad cow disease, which is a disease that causes
degeneration in the brain and spinal cords of cattle. The disease can be
transmitted to humans through consumption; therefore farmers lose the ability
to make profit from that specific cow since it’s now useless. According to the
US Department of Energy in 2007, cattle have been genetically altered
3 “USDA ERS – Chemical Inputs:
Pesticide Use & Markets.” USDA
ERS – Chemical Inputs: Pesticide Use
& Markets. US Department of Agriculture, 08 Nov. 2012. Web. 03 May
(genetic engineering) to resist mad
cow disease. 4 Since there is
now a decreased chance of susceptibility and a higher resistance of the
disease, the farmers have a higher margin for profit.
While studies show that genetically
modified organisms are being developed for reduced
costs for production, less use of pesticides, and greater resistance to
diseases and pests, it is
apparent that these all result in an increase in surplus for the producers of
these organisms, creating profit for firms like Monsanto. The production of GMO’s, ultimately similar to all commodities, is motivated by just one thing – profit.
While there are many advantages
attributed to the use of these genetically modified foods, there are many
unexpected side effects. For example, seeds
obtained from GMO crops can’t be
used to grow the plants again (the seeds commit suicide, known to the media as terminator seeds),
and this forces farmers to buy more seeds. The seeds that the farmers need
to buy are known as “biotech seeds”, which are very expensive. This poses a
large economic burden on farmers around the world.
“In Pakistan approximately 88% of
the total wheat area is planted in farm-saved seeds. If wheat farmers in
Pakistan were forced to rely on Terminator seeds it would cost them an
estimated US$191 million per year (BRL $406 million).
An estimated 40% of Pakistan’s 3.15
million cotton area is planted in farm-saved cotton seed. The estimated cost if
cotton farmers in Pakistan were forced to buy seed with Terminator technology:
US$33 million per annum (BRL $70 million).”5
Since farmers are now unable to save
farm seeds from the genetically modified crops, they are forced to buy new
seeds each season, causing a large
economic disadvantage – especially
for poor farms.
4 Phillips, Theresa. “Genetically
Modified Organisms (GMOs): Transgenic Crops and Recombinant DNA
Technology.” Nature.com. Nature
Publishing Group, 2008. Web.
5 “Ban Terminator.” The Potential Economic Impact / Peasants and Small-Scale Farmers / The
Issues / -. Lok Sanjh Foundation,
n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
Most of the world’s GMO’s are
produced by the company Monsanto (they own 90% of the GMF seed supply), which
is the same company that produced “Agent Orange” during World War I. It
controls most of the distribution and costs of the seeds.
Monsanto’s net full year income in
2011 was US $1.659 billion, and their total assets in 2013 were US $20.664
However, GMO’s have not been proven to be safe, and aren’t accepted or are specifically
banned in over 30 countries worldwide. For example, in India “The government
placed a last-minute ban on GM eggplant just before it was scheduled to begin
planting in 2010. However, farmers were widely encouraged to plant Monsanto’s GM
cotton and it has led to devastating results (shown below). The UK’s Daily Mail
reports that an estimated 125,000 farmers have committed suicide because of
crop failure and massive debt since planting GM seeds.”6
“A recent study was conducted in
Vidharbha, India to determine the effect of Bt (Bacillius thuringiensis) cotton
on the microbial population of various soil micro-organisms. The results indicated
a significant decline in total microbial biomass in the Bt soil. If current
trends continue, the researcher estimated that 6.7 million hectares of planted
Bt transgenic crops in India were in danger of becoming sterile and unable to
grown anything within the next 10 years.
Monsanto’s transgenic or genetically
modified (GM) cotton is pervasive in India and is created using an insertion of
three genes with only the soil bacteria, Bt, being used as a pesticide. Bt is a
bacterium used for the biological control of alfalfa and redhumped
caterpillars, cabbage looper and omnivorous and fruit tree leaf roller and is
toxic to many types of moths and butterfly larvae. After two to three days of
feeding on the Bt, the insects die.
Only recently, however, have researchers
begun to study the deleterious effects of this unnaturally inserted bacteria on
the viability of soil microorganisms. A study conducted in December of 2008
examined soil microorganisms from GM Bt-cotton on 25 different plots that had
been planted for three years as well as non-GM cotton in Vidharbha. Vidharbha
has been in the media recently due to the large increases in farmer suicides
attributed to the devastating losses and economic turmoil linked to GMOs.”7
6 “List of Countries That Ban GMO
Crops and Require GE Food Labels.” Natural
Revolution. N.p., July 2013. Web.
While it may seem like genetically
modified foods are higher quality, the
nutrient composition of most GMO crops is astoundingly low. For example, a
study done on genetically modified corn vs. natural grown corn in 2012 titled
the Corn Comparison Report, reported that GMO corn had 2ppm of manganese, 14ppm
of calcium, and 2ppm magnesium while non-GMO corn had 7 times as more
manganese, 437 times more calcium, and 56 times more magnesium. Further, GMO
corn contains about 13ppm of glyphosate (a herbicide), while animals start to
experience liver damage at 0.0001 ppm of glyphosate in water.
Traditionally, careful selection
processes and cross breeding have been used to constantly ensure better food
quality. Naturally, plants and animals breed selectively, which keeps the gene
pools pure for future generations (there’s a less likelihood of mutations and
diseases in the crops). In contrast, genetically modified organisms have genes
from closely related organisms or genes from viruses or bacteria (they don’t
selectively breed), which can cause anticipated problems. While there haven’t
been many documented cases of problems caused by this artificial breeding, the
long-term effects will surely be evident in the future.
Many countries around the world have
posed hefty trade implications regarding genetically modified organisms being
imported into their countries. Europe is a major region that actively
discourages GM foods and requires strict labeling for GM products. While most
of Europe is strictly against GMO’s, they do import many GM crops like soy,
7 Damato, Gregory, Dr. “The
Devastating Effects of GMOs on the Future of Soil | NW Resistance Against
Genetic Engineering.” NW Resistance
Against Genetic Engineering. June 2009. Web. 19 May 2014.
is mostly used for feeding their livestock. Europe hasn’t banned the
consumption or importing of GMO products, but instead doesn’t approve of the
domestic cultivation of most GMO products, and requires that food products with
even the smallest traces of GMO content to be labeled.8 As a result
of this, most companies in Europe have worked to remove traces of GMO content
in their products to avoid labeling them, and because of this, direct consumption of GM foods has been
squeezed out of their market.
Currently, the World Trade
Organization hasn’t had a trade dispute regarding GMOs. However, there was an
international agreement on living modified organisms called the Cartagena Protocol
on Biosafety, which works to regulate trans-boundary movements of genetically
engineered organisms, and was signed by 168 different governments in year 2000.9
“The agreement applies to measures taken
risks arising from additives,
contaminants, toxins or disease-causing organisms in their food, beverages,
plant- or animal-carried diseases
pests, diseases, or disease-causing
damage caused by the entry,
establishment or spread of pests.”
Instead of many countries explicitly
banned GMOs, they’ve simply disapproved the cultivation, importing, and/or for
human consumption of the GMO crops.
“In effect, GMO foods and crops are
being regulated as strictly as medical drugs, even though there is no evidence
that they carry more risks than conventional
8 Paarlberg, Robert, Dr. “Food
for Thought – Why Are GMOs Banned in Other Countries? – Best Food Facts.” Food for Thought – Why Are GMOs Banned in
Other Countries? – Best Food Facts. JNT Company, LLC., Dec. 2012. Web. 15
9 “Biosafety Protocol.” Greenpeace International. GREENPEACE
2014, n.d. Web. 15 May 2014. 10
“SPS AGREEMENT TRAINING MODULE: CHAPTER 8 Current Issues.” WTO. WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION 2014, n.d.
Print. 15 May 2014.
and crops (in the official opinion of the EU Research Directorate, for
example). Critics of GMO crops have promoted highly precautionary regulatory
systems as one way to slow down the spread of the technology, and in large
parts of the developing world governments have not yet given any cultivation
approvals at all.” (Paarlberg, Robert)
In conclusion, it’s shown that
genetically modified organisms are being developed for reduced costs of
production, less use of pesticides, and greater resistance to diseases and
In reality, it makes the production
of crops easier, however potentially more dangerous to the human population, as
it has a large biosafety issue. Currently there is no significantly valid
information confirming the danger that GMOs propose; however with current
scientific studies, there are highly potential issues in the long run.
Economically, GMOs pose a large
increase in profits for profit-obsessed companies such as Monsanto as genetically
modified foods are cheaper than organic foods and are processed easily.
Biotechnology has resulted in the
creation of GMOs; it is being used for biotech profits and is strengthening
corporate control over the world’s food bank.
Lance. “Comparison of GMO and Non-GMO Corn – the Real Statistics Will
Astound You!” NaturalNews.
Natural News Network. Web. 20 May 2014.
Kerryn. “The Debate Over Genetically Modified Foods.” Actionbioscience. American Institute of
Biological Sciences, May 2002. Web. 20 May
Nick. “GMO Foods: Key Points In The Genetically Modified Debate.” The Huffington Post.
TheHuffingtonPost.com, 02 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 May 2014.
Robert, Dr. “Food for Thought – Why Are GMOs Banned in Other Countries? –
Best Food Facts.” Food for Thought –
Why Are GMOs Banned in Other
Countries? – Best Food Facts. JNT Company, LLC., Dec. 2012. Web. 15 May 2014.
Curt. “GMOs for Profit: The Missing Context of Industrial Agriculture.”
Truthout. Nov. 2013. Web. 20 May
Nigel G. “Toward Two Decades of Plant Biotechnology: Successes, Failures,
and Prospects.” Food and Energy
Security. John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.
Gregory, Dr. “The Devastating Effects of GMOs on the Future of Soil | NW
Resistance Against Genetic Engineering.” NW Resistance Against Genetic Engineering.
June 2009. Web. 19 May 2014.
Koch, Bernhard A., and Bjarte Askeland. Economic Loss Caused by Genetically Modified Organisms: Liability and Redress
for the Adventitious Presence of GMOs in Non-GM Crops. Vol. 24. Wien:
Springer, 2008. P