27 November 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.


  1. Hi Katharina,

    I was wondering whether the EU support for GM crops is purely motivated by economic factors (i.e. like you said they feel it is necessary for ensuring Europe's competitiveness in the world market) or whether there are other reasons for this. For example, I assume some people argue that GM crops can be beneficial in some circumstances to solve issues of food shortages, but perhaps this does not apply to the EU case?
    Either way, this sounds very interesting; I did not know the EU felt so strongly about GM crops!

  2. Hey Katharina,

    I was wondering how you would propose a segregation of GM/non-GM agriculture?
    If support amongst the EU population is only 27% would citizens not oppose living close to land used merely for GM crops?
    Also who decides which regions/are gets to plant which crops? I could imagine that neighbouring farmers have different opinions on wether they want to use GM or conventional crops!

  3. Dear Lara,
    In the EU GM crops are less planted to solve food shortage, but rather to reduce the use of pesticides in Agriculture. Bt Maize Genetically modified Maize) has been legalized in the EU. This crop is resistant to the "European Corn borer", small worm that is a pest to many farmers planting conventional maize and forces them to use herbicides. In Spain, where large areas are affected by the insect, GM crops have been introduced on a large scale.

    Ensuring food security is more relevant when it comes to agriculture in the developing world. Crops such as the "Golden Rice" as has been introduces in India and Vietnam with higher Vitamin Content for example.

    I hope this answers your Question.

  4. Dear Casey,

    You raise valuable and very relevant points. Living in a GM area does not sound like the most attractive location to have a family home. But note that in conventional agriculture pesticides are used and this also affects surrounding regions negatively.

    Developing agricultural clusters is probably an issue of promotion and informing citizens better. Generally, if we see GM we think of skulls and yellow warning signs. Emphasizing the benefits of GM and the reduction in herbicide use and hence less environmental contamination could reduce conflict.

    Also note that 27% of the population opposed GM foods. So the concern is very high when it comes to consuming GM products rather than living in proximity to a GM region.

    Deciding on where to plant GM agriculture and where not is definitely also an issue. My policy recommendation is targeted at cases where new GM crop is introduced to an agricultural area. Rather than allocating GM fields randomly, I recommend forming clusters. This would probably include that GM farmers get assigned fields rather than choosing planting locations.

    I do see how this would be an issue however. Maybe in the EU my policy recommendation is hence not very viable as a lot of agricultural space has already been assigned.

    In the development of new agricultural areas my policy recommendation might be more feasible.

    If there are questions or issues remaining please do let me know. These insights are very valuable :)

  5. Was this poster in a magazine? I'm looking for a non-GMO ad to show to my FCS classes. If you have any ideas or leads please help a teacher out! ethomas@ojrsd.com

    1. I found this on the internet http://manitobadev.blog.techxpress.net/tag/non-gmo-month/

    2. In general entering "non-gm month" as a key word gives a lot of posters on google images


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