Act minimizes corporate risk, jeopardizes the rest
Even if you do not know exactly what GMOs are, you have probably heard of them. Genetically modified organisms and genetically engineered food have become a volatile topic. Although their purveyors tout the benefits of pest-resistant, fast-growing crops, many are concerned about the consequences of GMOs. As a result, their proliferation has been the focus of international and domestic protests.
Despite this controversy and the health implications of GMOs, which have yet to be fully understood, President Obama signed a bill protecting GMO producers March 26. The Monsanto Protection Act keeps corporations from being sued for health problems caused by eating crops grown from genetically-modified seeds. The act was added as a rider to an unrelated bill, suggesting that it would not have passed on its own.
While Obama is minimizing financial risks to corporations, he is disregarding incalculable risks associated with GMOs. This act has set precedent for government support of GMOs and the companies that produce them. Moreover, he has denied corporate responsibility for the consequences of their product, and has robbed consumers of a mechanism for litigation if GMOs do cause harm.
Genetically modified seeds have yet to be fully tested for potential health risks. Because genetic engineering is a relatively new field, there is no way of anticipating how this technology will affect the population. There are no safeguards to ensure its security and reliability. Therefore, the signing of this bill seems premature. Obama is endorsing a product no one fully understands.
Many consumers are not aware of GMOs or their implications. They do not know how their food was produced and should not be held responsible for health risks caused by GMOs. This bill makes them responsible, however, by denying corporate responsibility. Those consumers who are aware of GMOs may choose to buy organic, non-modified food, usually at an outrageous price most cannot afford.
At the time of the bills signage, Monsanto, its namesake, was celebrating last year’s profits from the sale of genetically-modified seeds. Monsanto is notorious for dominating the transgenic seed market. Their patented genes are found in 90 percent of all soybeans and 80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. Monsanto’s agricultural control allows it to undercut small farmers, and the supposed superiority of its seeds pushes traditional farmers out of the market.
This monopoly, coupled with the nature of GMOs, could have devastating environmental consequences. Larger farms create more pollution and take up more land, which degrades wildlife habitats. Transgenic crops’ invulnerability to pests could make them lethal to helpful, pollinating insects. In addition, pests and viruses could become resistant to genetically-engineered immunities.
Although they have the potential to cause medical, economic and environmental harm, GMOs also have the potential to end famine and disease. These were not the considerations that went into this bill, however; mostly, it seems to be concerned with lining corporate pockets by allowing companies to exploit these genetic experiments without risking lawsuits. While corporations make a profit, consumers have no recourse if these seeds do damage. By signing this bill despite public outcry, legislators have shown that lobbyists are their true constituents.