Crop Genetics

A relative who works at Whole Foods market once told me this: “when our store is unable to sell its non-organic items, our managers asks us to label them “organic” and we do.” This raised a red flag. Do we, as U.S. shoppers, know if our food is actually organic or not? Further, do we know if our food is genetically modified or not? The real question is, how do we know?

In truth, we can’t. Around the globe there are 64 countries that require food producers to provide such information on products labels. The U.S is not one of them. In the U.S., genetically modified products are regarded “‘substantially equivalent’ to foods grown from traditional methods, and requires no special labeling.” There have been attempts to regulate GMO food labeling in the U.S., but nothing fruitful came out of it. It is also good to note that farmers in the U.S., though they have their limits, are biggest supporters of genetically modified crops because it yields high results for less work.

In India, farmers are facing a suicide epidemic due to genetically modified crops. Millions of Indian farmers were promised a successful harvest and income if they switched from using traditional seeds to genetically modified seeds. Shankara, a local Indian farmer, took this promise to heart and borrowed money to buy the GM seeds. However, the GM seed failed. His harvest failed– twice and he ended up in debts with no income. Shankara is estimated to be one of the25,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of ‘the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.”

Now, Africa is the target of genetically modified food companies. Although the intention behind this, according to European scientists, is to cultivate the agricultural production of African countries, local farmers regard it as a “new form of colonialism.” This indeed may be true. Under the notion of helping African farmers to grow crops more sufficiently and easily, GM companies are more concerned with promoting farming at a governmental level. No consideration as to how this decision affects local farmers is given.

-Meron Kebede


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