The EU Mistake with Food and Why it Shouldn’t Be Repeated

Joseph Pacifico

Blog Post: Food

ECO 310

 

As GMO technology progresses and becomes more and more effective in producing food, the world will see food prices fall and become widely available for the masses. With more food that is cheaper in world markets, shoppers at supermarkets will see better, more affordable fruits, vegetables, and meats. GMOs directly help those in poverty. By increased use and acceptance of GMOs, people will have more disposable income and be able to eat better food as well. Why is McDonald’s Big Mac so cheap? Why are there fast food restaurants on every block? Why is a salad so much more expensive than a hamburger? People who earn less end up eating fast food often due to pure necessity (that they lack the disposable income to be able to eat somewhere else, perhaps healthier). Beef can be frozen. Spinach expires faster in supermarkets. Fruits expire after a few days. Chocolate can take months to expire. Because it is more perishable, healthier options are often more expensive to transport (if deliveries are late then the supermarket has less time to put it out on the shelves and less of an opportunity to get it sold, adding to their waste costs). If a fruit has a blemish or looks undesirable, people will not buy it. A study was done that analyzed this effect. In order to “prevent the crop from browning, the company silenced an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO) that drives oxidation in apples. The benefit of these apples, the company says, is that it cuts down food waste—about 40 percent of apples are currently wasted, with much of that waste from superficial bruising and browning.” [3] With GMOs, producing fruits and vegetables become easier, more efficient and more widespread. Making it easier to get more of the product to its customers, especially with lower prices, makes it easier for poor people to skip McDonald’s for the day and go somewhere healthier. This simple fact can lead to reductions in diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. It can also lead to reductions in methane due to the decrease in consumption of beef, and the decrease in cows (where fast food chains would cut back on the need to supply so much beef to the market due to consumption patterns). Making meat in a lab as opposed to getting it from a cow in a field reduces the amount of methane we release into the atmosphere. The negative effects of climate change can be reduced by changing the way we eat food. Making fruits, vegetables and meat cheaper for the masses also helps us export it to other countries who face famine or drought as foreign aid. If we can make food cheaper by supplying more of the good in the market, we can drive down prices, and more people will be able to eat cheaper and eat better by choosing better alternatives.

An example of this effect is happening in the U.S. with apple production. “Apple consumption in the U.S. has been stagnant for 20 years amid worsening obesity…Apple consumption in the U.S. has been stagnant for 20 years amid worsening obesity…Carter anticipates increasing that number to more than 1,000 acres by 2020. The company is planning future plantings in Canada and other countries. More than 90 percent of the consumers that tried them said they would buy them if available in their local stores. “The purpose of Arctic apples is definitely to promote healthy eating, boost apple consumption and reduce food waste, no matter what your age, income, or any other factor,” Carter said.” [4] By increasing the acres of GM products, the prices will fall due to market oversupply. Most consumers in this study said they would purchase the GM apples, which makes sense because if an apple tastes like an apple, then most people wouldn’t really care if it’s GM or not.

Another factor is that GMOs can reduce costs in production. A study shows how profitable this effect can be for small farmers. “Data collected between 2002 and 2008, and controlling for nonrandom selection bias in technology adoption, we show that Bt has caused a 24% increase in cotton yield per acre through reduced pest damage and a 50% gain in cotton profit among smallholders. We conclude that Bt cotton has created large and sustainable benefits, which contribute to positive economic and social development in India. The results show that Bt cotton adoption has caused sizeable socioeconomic benefits for smallholder farm households in India.”[6] This same result can and does occur in farms in every country, not just India. GMOs produce additional profits for smaller business due to more successful harvests and cheaper input costs. Small businesses create competition and further stimulate the economy, which can save underdeveloped countries and help them advance.

The problem is that the many countries, including western members of the EU, have limitations or outright prohibitions on the cultivation or importation of GMOs. “Other factors are trade protectionism, pressure from activists, public uneasiness or a desire to protect a country’s image—such as the French belief that a genetic crops could “contaminate” the country’s reputation as a world food capital.” [7] This is the most obvious step in the wrong direction. If anything, GMO use needs to be more widespread. What matters most is people making healthier choices, and more importantly, that poor people can have easier access to more foods, not a country’s “image.”

“The report found that the EU authorization procedure is generally considered to achieve the objectives of the protection of human and animal health through the use of science-based risk assessment, and that there were no cases of animal or human health problems resulting from GMOs to date. The study also noted that, due to the lack of availability of GM-labeled products in the EU markets, it was not easy to evaluate public acceptance of GMOs.” [2] The anti-GMO interests of lobbying groups is making cheaper, more widely available food impossible in most of these countries. They can’t even make an informed opinion about this because it’s so restricted. What about the poor overseas? They often suffer the most from most of these restrictions.

Furthermore, the EU report “came to the conclusion that benefits from growing GM crops mainly derive from increased yields, which are greatest for small farmers in developing countries. Apart from higher yields, the adoption of GM-crops can reduce production costs by reducing pesticide use, labour and fuel costs. Barfoot and Brookes (2007) estimated that even with seed costs of GM crops being higher than for their conventional counterpart, total farm benefits are higher for GM crop adopters, amounting to about $7 billion (5.23 billion €) globally per year.“ [1] $7 billion collectively is being missed in GDP, in potential small farmers not going bankrupt, in more people get fed.

A study was done in Uganda that further exemplifies the positive impacts of GMO adoption. “Banana bacterial wilt (BBW) is known as the top banana-killer disease in the Great Lakes region. Instead he has engaged in aggressive sanitation measures that include surveying his plantation twice daily and cutting down and burying diseased trees. He and his workers now carefully clean their tools with fire or bleach to ensure they don’t transfer the disease to uninfected trees. Plant scientists like Dr. Namanya make clear that both vitamin A and BBW-resistance genes have been introduced to existing farmer-preferred varieties, thereby safeguarding their future in Ugandan agriculture.” [5] GMOs allowed this Ugandan farmer to continue his farming business despite the powerful force of nature itself. If we are even remotely capable of doing this, in the ideal society, we would be lucky. Instead, we are preventing this same type of practice from being adopted and used in the countries that need it most. Leading nations in the EU should set the example for the rest of the world and further develop and invest into this industry, and then make these more innovative GMO methods readily available for any country that wants it.

As this writing outlines the benefits of GMOs that are either unrealized or ignored, the international community should push harder for GMO adoption, and the EU’s mistake in this regard should not be allowed to continue. A world without GMOs will hurt the poor population and small farmers of the world the most, and help big business and government interests. If we live in a world where people continue to ignore the facts of science for selfishness and greed, we begin to forget what it is to be human. It is the duty of the government to lead us towards the right and away from the wrong.

 

Work Cited

 

[1] Kaphengst, Timo; Nadja El Benni; Clive Evans; Robert Finger; Sophie Herbert; Stephen

Morse; Nataliya Stupak (2010): Assessment of the economic performance of GM crops

worldwide. Report to the European Commission, March 2011.

 

[2] Papademetriou, Theresa. “Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms: European Union.” Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms: European Union | Law Library of Congress, Library of Congress, 1 Mar. 2014, http://www.loc.gov/law/help/restrictions-on-gmos/eu.php#_ftn25.

 

[3] Chow, Lorraine. “GMO Apples Arriving on U.S. Shelves for First Time.” EcoWatch, EcoWatch, 8 Nov. 2017, http://www.ecowatch.com/gmo-apples-arctic-2507751729.html.

 

[4] Mulvany, Lydia. “GMO Apples Head to the Midwest.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 2 Nov. 2017, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-02/get-ready-for-gmo-fruit-salad-as-modified-apples-head-to-midwest.

 

[5] Conrow, Joan, and Mark Lynas. “Uganda Biotech Law Opens Door to Disease-Resistant GMO Crops.” Cornell Alliance for Science, Cornell Alliance for Science, 9 Oct. 2017, allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/uganda-biotech-law-opens-door-disease-resistant-gmo-crops.

 

[6] Kathage, Jonas, and Matin Qaim. “Economic Impacts and Impact Dynamics of Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) Cotton in India.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 109, no. 29, 2012, pp. 11652–11656. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41685132.

 

[7] “Where Are GMOs Grown and Banned? #GMOFAQ.” GMO FAQ, Genetic Literacy Project , gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/where-are-gmos-grown-and-banned/.

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