In February 2012, the U.S. Judicial System brought attention to a particularly complex debate that has polarized the world since the 1970s. This debate centers on the creation and production of genetically modified organisms or GMOs. In an act to protect small organic farmers around the U.S., the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) filed a case against the biotechnological company, Monsanto. OSGATA’s purpose was to acquire legal protection for small farmers who have been accused by the notoriously litigious Monsanto in droves since the 1990s for illegally profiting from Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds.
Being one of the major life science companies responsible for the production of GMOs, Monsanto continually finds itself at the center of controversy for its ever-increasing monopoly in the food production world. Monsanto easily threatens to crush small farmers with its powerful and far-reaching tentacles in science, food industry, and commerce. Organic farmers are concerned that their efforts for authentic, unaltered seeds will be controlled or even destroyed by Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds.
This court case falls on the spiraling helix of the larger, long-standing GMO topic. Proponents of GMOs like Bill Gates see a potentiality for positive impact in our worldwide food shortage. For these proponents, GMOs appear to be the immediate solution to this food crisis. U.S. farmers and farmers in developing countries such as Honduras proclaim the advantages of GMOs. These advantages include an attrition of plant pests, reduction in pesticides, and the ability to produce increased crop quantities for sustainable living. GMO supporters also argue that opponents are stalling progressive solutions to the world’s biggest issues by vilifying technology.
On the other side of the debate are scientists, activists, and consumers concerned about many aspects of GMOs. In 2000, PBS examined the manifold sides of this debate, which continue to persist today. While numerous opponents concede that GMOs appear to offer immediate solutions to some of the world’s food crises, they argue that no one knows the long-term impact of GMOs on food, human health, and the environment. Such opponents as Jeremy Rifkin from the Foundation on Economic Trends argue that GMO supporters contradict their altruistic claims. He states that the fact that genetically modified seeds are engineered to become sterile after one growing season runs contrary to a notion of eradicating world hunger. Still others point directly to the disingenuous motives of Monsanto whose company history exemplifies a profiteering of entrepreneurial markets rather than benevolent actions.
In reality, the entangled nature of the GMO debate cannot be summed up in a single or even a thousand articles. The recent court case, while concluding in favor of Monsanto, shrouds this debate in a timely limelight that prompts the world to continue scrutinizing the composition and quality of food.
*Food Fight image from Threadless
*Second image from Food Freedom