Genetic engineering is one of the many ways that scientific research and development is having a dramatic impact on the agricultural industry. Genetic engineering is the manipulation of a species’ genome in ways that do not normally occur in nature. The manipulation of the species’ genome determines the characteristics and traits that the organism exhibits. This genetic manipulation is both an amazing scientific feat, and a step in a direction that poses many ethical, environmental, and health concerns. Despite the support of empirical evidence to prove or disprove the claims against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), one thing is known; due to population increase, the world will have to grow 70% more food by 2050 to keep up with population growth. This however, does not have to be done with GM products. As seen in the QUIZ in this website, diversity and productivity DECREASES with the use of GM products.
There is a lack of adequate testing and regulations for the use and production of GMOs. This is a problem that is under the spotlight (but not enough), and has not been fixed due to more a lack of understanding than a lack of priority. A Scientist, Schubert, addressed this by saying, “Ninety percent of the scientists I talk to assume that new GM plants are safety-tested the same way new drugs are by the FDA,” he says. “They absolutely aren't, and they absolutely should be." In addition to this dilemma, other oppositional stances have been taken on the stances of mainly legitimate fears: are there long term affects, will we possibly create an invasive species or an organism which makes its way back into the food chain and upsets the natural order of things, and hidden costs of GMOs. Of these, unaccounted costs are most relevant for government and for small farmers. These products allow larger Corporate farms to have a "extra leg in" as they have the money for these seeds, while small farms usually do not. Seed companies supplying farmers with GMO seeds are mostly owned by multi-national agrichemical corporations who place many constraints on the use of their seeds. GMO seeds are engineered with sterility. This limit on the life span forces farmers to return to seed companies the next year and become overly dependent on an outside source. Therefore this seems to be a cause of many small farmers declining and extinction as they cannot afford the seeds at such high costs and due to how much they have to buy more seeds.
University of Canterbury (UC) researchers have found that the GM strategy used in North American staple crop production is limiting yields and increasing pesticide use compared to non-GM farming in Europe. And Non-GM use in the EU leads the field in yields and less pesticide use, among other things. The combination of non-GMO use and management practices used by Europe is increasing corn yields faster than the US's use of GMO-led crop yields. This research further shows that rapeseed or canola yields is increasing faster in EU without GMO products than in the GM-led package use in the US and Canada. The use of non-GMOs in EU also decreases chemical herbicides and achieves a larger decline in insecticide use without sacrificing yield gains.
Chemical herbicide use has increased with GMO seed/product use in the United States. Europe has grown more food per hectare and use fewer chemicals in the process. Americans choose to use biotechnology which is causing us to fall behind in productivity and sustainability, compared to Europe.
GM use hinders choice and progress. The research points out that agriculture responds to government and commercial incentives such as subsidies, grants, intellectual property rights instruments, tax incentives, trade promotions, and regulation. These incentive systems in America are leading to a heavy reliance on GM products/seeds and management practices that are much less superior to the incentive systems in Europe. Europe's incentive systems lean towards giving incentives for small, organic agriculture functions and for proper management of products, not for the American ideal of "more, faster."
The use of GM crops affects non-GM crops. America's yield in non-GM wheat has fallen behind Europe, which shows that America's choice in biotechnology "penalizes both GM and non-GM crop types relative to Europe" (gmeducation.org). This is seen in the decrease in the annual variation in yields which suggests tat Europe has a superior combination of seed and crop management and is better suited to withstand weather variations, and other surprises that occur along the way with agriculture.
We need to step away from the use of GMOs and a step towards diversity, resilience, and productivity by using non-GMO products. Companies like Monsanto and other USDA promoted GMO production farms and companies do nothing but decrease the opportunities for small, natural, family farms.