This report covers the facts on GMOs and their impacts:
- A Background on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
- What Are the GMO Crops?
- The Next Frontier: GMO Animals
- Insufficient Protection
- Impact of GMOs on Consumers
- Impact of GMOs on the Food System
- Impact of GMOs on Farmers
- Global Trade
- Debunking Monsanto’s Myths
- Food & Water Watch’s recommendations
For centuries, farmers were able to use generations’ worth of knowledge to breed seeds and livestock for their most desirable traits. However, technological innovation has gradually made this method of breeding nearly obsolete. Today, most soybeans, corn and cotton have been genetically engineered—altered with inserted genetic material or altered in the laboratory in ways that can’t be achieved with traditional breeding techniques—to exhibit traits that repel pests or withstand the application of herbicides. Genetically engineered crops are also commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Mergers and patent restrictions have increased the market power of biotechnology companies like Monsanto. The onslaught of genetic engineering has not only diminished the ability of farmers to practice their own methods of seed selection, but also turned another sector of agriculture into a business monopolized by a few corporations.
Farmers, who now depend on the few firms that sell seeds and affiliated agrochemicals, face higher prices and patent infringement lawsuits if a patent is allegedly violated. Genetic contamination is a serious threat to the livelihoods of non-GMO and organic farmers who bear the financial burden for these incidents.
GMO crops can take a toll on agriculture and surrounding wildlife as well. The environmental effects of GMO crops include intensified agrochemical use and pollution, increased weed and insect resistance to herbicides and pesticides, and gene flow between GMO and non-GMO crops.
Once GMO products are on the market, no clear on-package labeling is required. This means that U.S. consumers blindly eat and drink GMO ingredients every day and are not given the knowledge or choice to do otherwise. Several studies point to the health risks of GMO crops and their associated agrochemicals, but proponents of the technology promote it as an environmentally responsible, profitable way for farmers to feed a growing global population. Yet the only ones experiencing any benefits from GMO crops are the few, massive corporations that are controlling the food system at every step and seeing large profit margins.
New technologies — like genetic engineering — create uncertainties and risk that should be carefully evaluated rather than being rapidly pushed onto the market. The existing regulatory framework for GMO foods simply does not measure up. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration have failed to protect the environment, the food system or public health from GMO foods.
Food & Water Watch recommends:
- A moratorium on new approvals of genetically engineered plants and animals;
- Mandatory labeling of GMO foods;
- Liability for GMO contamination that rests with seed patent holders;
- Use of the precautionary principle for the evaluation of GMO crops, animals and food;
- A new regulatory framework for GMO crops, animals and food; and
- Improved agency coordinator and increased post-market regulation of GMO foods.