An Argument Against the Promotion of Using Genetically Modified Cash Crops in the United States

With the rapid development of Biotechnology, more and more genetically modified cash crops was approved and could widely be seen on the market. Rising along side are the discussions regarding whether there have been enough regulations on genetically modified cash crops or should we even embrace them at all. As an individual with limited understanding towards this technology, I genuinely feel insecure about the potential risks. Thereby, I argue that we should not keep on promoting the usage of genetically modified cash crops.

In my passage below, I will first attack my thesis by discussing the benefits of genetically modified cash crops.

First of all, Genetically Modified cash corps will make cultivation much more environmentally friendly. To start with, genetically modified cash corps can greatly reduce the usage of pesticides and herbicides, which could greatly lower the risks of both farmers and consumers who are suffering from pesticide related poisonings. The heavy use of herbicides has led to groundwater contaminations, the death of several wildlife species and has also been attributed to various human and animal illnesses.

With the availability of GMOs, these problems could be improved.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning each year that cause up to 20,000 deaths primarily in developing countries. Herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant plants account for over 95% of the GM crops currently; both contribute to a reduction in farmer’s application of plant protection products. To take BT-corn as an example: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacterium in the soil that produces proteins specifically active against certain insects.

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Some crops such as corn, cotton, and soybeans have been genetically engineered to express the Bt genes that act as insecticides.

The use of Bt crops has led to a reduction in conventional synthetic insecticide use (up to 25-33%). With the application of gene-engineering, we could not only reduce the case of herbicide and pesticide related poisonings, but also make the consumption of natural resources more efficient. A study conducted by the American Soybean Association on tillage frequency on soybean farms also showed that significant numbers of farmers adopted the “no-tillage” or “reduced tillage” practice after planting genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties. This simple weed management approach saved over 234 million gallons of fuel and left 247 million tons of irreplaceable topsoil undisturbed.

Secondly, Genetically Modified cash corps can increase yields, which could correspondingly solve the hunger problems around the world. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016. Almost all the hungry people, 780 million, live in developing countries, representing 12.9 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties. While traditional agriculture methods remain low in efficiency and environmental unfriendly, genetically modified crops have been proven to be effective in increasing yields.

Such case is particularly true in developing countries. GM traits, such as insect and herbicide tolerance, help to increase yields by protecting the yield that would otherwise be lost due to insects or weeds. In developing countries, where resources to effectively control weeds and insects are often limited, these traits have increased yield substantially. The same is also true for developed countries where there are particular pests that are hard to control–such as the corn rootworm complex or some perennial weeds.

With a 10 percent change to a genetically modified herbicide tolerant crop a roughly 1.7 percent increase in productivity is observed. Achieving such increase in yields without further harming the soils and lands, the live hoods of the farmers will be greatly improved. More importantly, we can better adapt ourselves towards the rapid increase of world population as well.

However, despite all the benefits that genetically modified food have, we should by no means ignore the risks and challenges it brings to us alongside. First of all, the safety of GM corps remains highly questionable. To take BT-corn as an example. Although companies like Monsanto and PG that developed this technology of building BT-toxins into the corps claim that the toxins will be fully processed by human’s digestive system, many studies have find contradicting conclusions.

Researchers at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn’s Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women who have previously consumed BT-corps and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women. Specifically, the toxin was identified in 93% of 30 pregnant women, 80% of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67% of 39 non-pregnant women. Although the residues of traditional chemical pesticides also serve as threats to our health, they are after all sprayed on and could be eliminate with careful washing and cleaning.

However, the poisonous toxins in bt-crops are built in and could even be passed on towards our next generations. The fact that there haven’t been official reports of death directly related to GM corps could just simply be due to the short amount of time that genetic engineering technologies was introduced to the world.

Secondly, genetically modified cash corps is actually not environmental friendly. To start with, pesticides and herbicides usage has in fact greatly increased with the wide adoption of GM corps by farmers. Over the first six years of commercial use (1996-2001), HT and Bt crops reduced pesticide use by about 2%, compared to what it likely would have been in the absence of GE crops.

However, the over-reliance on HT and BT crops has led to the emergence of extraordinarily resilient weeds and insects, which in term increase the usage of herbicides in recent years. The incremental increase of herbicides on HT corps per year has grown steadily from 1.5 million pounds in 1999, to 18 million five years later in 2003, and 79 million pounds in In 2011, about 90 million more pounds of herbicides were applied than likely in the absence of HT.6.

What’s more, GM crop could also damage the balance of our ecosystem. By promoting greater use of certain pesticides associated with GM crops that are particularly toxic to many species, and by introducing exotic genes and organisms into the environment that may disrupt natural plant communities, the original local ecosystems are greatly influenced by issues including the extinction of plants and beneficial insects, uniformity of corps in the fields, the uncontrolled crossbreeding of GM corps and wild corps.

Other than biological and environmental problems, many political and economical problems related to GM corps should also be given serious considerations. The monopoly of Genetic Engineering Giants has become a serious threat to the live hood of the farmers as well as the safety of consumers. The “big four” bigtech companies: Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, and Dow AgroSciences company owns more than half of the GE seed market in US (the proportion is even higher in some developing countries like India and Brazil).

Besides, in addition to selling overpriced seeds, big companies like Monsanto are also licensing genetically modified traits to other seed companies. As a result, more than 80% of GM corns planted in US contain Monsanto’s GM traits. The monopolization of these few companies has led to two major problems. First, conventional and older NON-genetically modified seed varieties are pushed out of the market. Secondly, according to the decisions of the Supreme Court, farmers are prohibited from keeping the seed of GM corps. On the other hand, the farmers are left with no choice but to buy the overpriced GM seeds from the big companies every single year.

To take the seed of GM soybeans as an example, its average price has increased 230% between 2001 and 2011.7 According to a study by Consumers International, an estimated 270,000 small-hold farmers in the Philippines are being forced to grow GM corn and ending up in debt. The cost of corn seeds has risen 282% from its introductory price and accounts for 18-21% of a farmer’s total cost of production.

Despite all the potential benefits that GM cash crop has, the risks, danger and other drawbacks of it should definitely not to be neglected. At this point, we should also bear in mind that many pro-GMO papers and researches are initiated and sponsored by biotech companies themselves. It is possible that the companies have extricated the “advantages” and downplayed the “risks” of GM crops to maximize their profits. Considering the fact that there are still so much uncertainty regarding the safety and necessity of this technology, i argue that we should not further promote genetic engineered cash crops.

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An Argument Against the Promotion of Using Genetically Modified Cash Crops in the United States. (2023, Jan 10). Retrieved from

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