27 Nov 2014

The Time is Not (Yet) Ripe for GM-Products

Katharina B writes:*

The European Commission proclaims that a diversified agricultural industry is key to ensuring Europe’s competitiveness on the world agricultural market. As such, it has supported the coexistence of GM (genetically modified) and non-GM crops since 2003.

The problem is that GM and conventional farming are incompatible agricultural methods that interfere with each other in inefficient ways. The need for buffer lands (to reduce the risk of GM pollen affecting conventional crops), for example, reduces the amount of productive land.

Having strictly separated GM and non-GM zones would be more feasible as the use of buffer zones could be minimized and a maximum of agricultural land used. The European Commission is against this policy as it would create economic zones that could be labeled as organic and conventional or as GM. This would make a geographic area representative of its produce and non-GM agricultural zones might have a market advantage as GM-free products are largely favored by consumers in the EU. The average support for GM foods in the European population is about 27%.

That GM crop areas will have a market disadvantage to GM free zones should, however, not be a concern of the EU and hinder the implementation of clearly segregated agricultural zones.

GM-produce faces low demand in the population and the mere existence of GM-pollen as a negative externality is due to lacking market demand for GM produce. If consumers in the market were in favor of GM crops, no one would mind the presence of GM content in produce and cross-pollination would not harm conventional growers. Competition in the market ensures that products with lacking demand will suffer a reduction in supply. Forcibly introducing coexistence between GM and non-GM products ignores fundamental market processes and leads to losses in agricultural land and conflicts that reduce market output.

Bottom Line: The time is not yet ripe for GM agriculture because people do not want GM crops and GM crops contaminate conventional crops. GM crops should be segregated and conventional agriculture emphasized.

* Please comment on these posts from my environmental economics students, to help them with unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc.