Ethical Implications of Genetic Modification

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Genetic engineering has played an increasingly important part in the business of agriculture, resulting in the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which have been created by altering genetic materials by way of genetic engineering. While GMOs have a multitude of applications, I will focus primarily on GMO technology used to grow and develop food crops and the growing controversy surrounding the practice. According to National Agricultural Statistics Service (2010), over 80% of all soybeans and the majority of all corn produced in the United States is genetically modified, and we have been eating foods containing GMOs for at least a decade. About 75% of all processed foods (snack foods, crackers, breakfast cereals, cooking oils, and anything containing high fructose corn syrup) and almost everything that contains soy or corn has been genetically modified. Genetically modified foods (GMFs) may have a longer shelf-life, enhanced nutrition, or be resistant to drought. One company that holds the majority of GMO patents is Monsanto, which has engineered genetically modified food crops that resist herbicide spraying (called Roundup Ready soybeans and corn). These products have proven to be a remarkable economic success, both to farmers and to Monsanto, increasing yields while effectively decreasing the use of herbicides.

So, you may ask, what is the controversy? Supporters of GMOs hail the positive effect of the use of GMOs to the overall economy of agribusiness and the cost savings passed on to consumers. Skeptics believe that we should have the benefit of choosing whether or not to eat GMFs, but agribusiness industries believe that labeling should be voluntary because they view the GMFs to be substantially equivalent to non-GMFs, a view that is shared by the FDA. Is this merely a food industry problem that really does not affect the consumer? Are we making a mountain out of a molehill? A closer look at the arguments reveals that the...
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