GMO’s, Business Ethics, and Science

by Annie Curie, Political Science major

As a student whose primary focus is political science and economics, rather than plant pathology, it will come as no surprise when I say that my interest in agribusiness is a balance between the foundational science and business ethics.

Companies such as Monsanto have been spotlighted frequently in the media for what some would call shady business practices that threaten to monopolize the food industry. In recent years, the Supreme Court even agreed to hear a case on the matter. The national news story can be found here.

Frustration with these practices has produced popular criticisms, which may increase the vehemence with which groups protest the production and sale of genetically modified crops. However, do these business practices negate the science behind genetically modified crops?

Regardless of one’s opinion on the way Monsanto does business, consideration should be given to value of genetically modified crops to produce higher yields and better crops. Many such plants are pesticide resistant, or more specifically, herbicide-tolerant (for weed management), contain nutrients not found naturally, or provide a variety of other traits that can help sustain our ever-growing population.

Plant science holds the key to the future, but to what extent should policy makers be involved in the process? Currently, the FDA regulations on GMO crops are “relaxed”, promoting research and development while simultaneously protecting people from potential harm caused by allergens.

In contrast, the European Union has prevented the sale of GMOs within its borders, although a recent ruling will discontinue this practice and allow countries to decide for themselves whether or not to allow GMO crops.

These sorts of policy questions are important to consider as plant pathologists, biotechnologists, and engineers move forward with research into potential advancements in the field of agribusiness.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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