This website considers the positive and negative aspects of the implementation of genetically modified (GM) food products.
The landscape of food production is changing right under our feet. What does this mean for us and the world we live in? Is genetic modification of foods an irreversible development for the worse or an amazing sign of human progress? Or is it some of both?
Genetically modified (GM) crops are making up a greater and greater percentage of total agricultural acreage every year. Worldwide, 252 million acres of transgenic crops were planted in 22 countries by 10.3 million farmers in 2006. It has been estimated that 70-75 percent of processed foods on U.S. supermarket shelves contain genetically modified ingredients (Center for Food Safety). According to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS), there has been a dramatic increase in GM presence in America over the past thirteen years. In 1996, BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton accounted for 14.6% of US cotton acreage (Fernandez-Cornejo 2009). BT technology has been available for corn and cotton since 1996; the technology protects the plant from specific insects by encoding for a toxic protein. No genetically engineered crop represented more than 15% of the acreage for that crop in 1996 (Fernandez-Cornejo 2009). BT corn grew from 8 percent of US corn acreage in 1997 to 23 percent in 199, and after a brief decline reached 63% in 2009. The increases in recent years are likely a result of a 2003 introduction of a Bt corn variety that is resistant to root-worm, a pest that rivals the European corn borer as the most destructive corn pest (Fernandez-Cornejo 2009).
Herbicide tolerant (HT) crops represented 17% of soybean acreage in 1997. In 2001, it represented 68 percent and by 2009, 91% of soybean acres were HT. HT cotton acreage expanded from 10% of US acreage in 1997 to 56% in 2001 to 71% in 2009. HT corn reached 68% of US corn acreage in 2009 (Fernandez-Cornejo 2009).
In the United States, oversight is bogged down by inefficiency in the name of specialization. Three different government agencies have jurisdiction over GM foods. The Environmental Protection Agency monitors environmental safety, the USDA evaluates whether the plant is indeed safe to grow, and the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for making sure the plant is safe to eat (Whitman 2000). BT corn is monitored by the EPA but not those with altered nutritional values. The USDA monitors drought or disease resistant crops. The FDA monitors food products but not whole foods. The FDA holds that GM foods are substantially equivalent and not subject to FDA regulation. The EPA is in charge of monitoring environmental risks, while the USDA requires a permit for GM plants only if certain conditions of stability are met (Whitman 2000). This website delves into the intricacies of the potential and actual affects, both positive and negative, that GM has on the world we live in, our health, and agronomics of food production.
"Genetically Engineered Food." Center for Food Safety, http://centerforfoodsafety.org/geneticall7.cfm
Fernandez-Cornejo, Jorge. "Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S." USDA: Economic Research Service. 1 July 2009. 17 April 2010 <http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/>
Whitman, Deborah. "Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?" CSA. April 2000. 17 April 2010 <http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php#n4>