Genetically modified food crops and the competitiveness of Australian Agriculture

Wong Wei Jin, Samuel 2008

1.0 Abstract Genetically Modified Foods are consumer-based crops that are given unique characteristics using Genetic Engineering. These characteristics allow higher economic profit as compared to conventional plant crops, but have shown to be detrimental to the environment. This research report is aimed at assessing the suitability of commercial-scale production of Genetically Modified Foods in Australia, which will be achieved by coming up with an objective understanding of Genetically Modified Foods through primarily considering the surrounding economic and environmental issues. The results of the report show that while Genetically Modified Foods are highly beneficial towards the economy of Australia and should be produced at a commercial level, investment is recommended for research concerning the risks of Genetically Modified Foods. This is supported by compiled evidence of the harms and uncertainty of Genetically Modified Foods from past literature.

2.0 Introduction

Genetically Modified Food crops (GM foods) are food products that possess unique characteristics as compared to naturally grown crops, made possible by genetic engineering (GE). The unique characteristics of GM foods such as being pest, herbicide and drought resistant are achieved through manipulation of plant crops’ genetic structure. As GM foods are engineered to possess qualities such as being resistant to droughts, pests and other undesirable natural phenomena that may hinder production, they are more highly yielding as compared to conventional crops. Such characteristics cause GM foods to be very popular among farmers due to the large economic benefits from higher yields. However, research has shown that GM foods possess traits that are harmful to the environment, human health and organic farming. GM crops are new to the agricultural industry and contain unknown risks that cause people to question the safety of introducing GM crops. Also, the manipulation of genes in GM foods has given rise to ethical and legal issues. Together, these issues contribute to the opposing perspective of commercial scale GM food production. As a result, environmentalists and various organic farming organizations have called for banning of GM crops to prevent damage to the environment. A large proportion of the revenue in Australia is gained from agricultural exports such as canola, maize and rice. Because of the importance of agricultural exports in Australia’s economy, Australia has to stay competitive in producing these foods to sustain a high economical growth. As GM crops are increasingly popular in the international market, economies that remain producing conventional food crops will be economically disadvantaged due to less competitive production. In order to maintain a desired level of competitiveness, it is important for Australia to consider GM foods for its agricultural industry. GM foods have been highly controversial because of the extensive economic benefits they provide and the detrimental effects they pose on the environment. While the governments of Victoria and New South Wales have already lifted moratoriums on GM foods, much debate continues in other states as to whether or not GM foods should be allowed. The report seeks to examine the various economic and environmental issues surrounding GM foods by reviewing past literature and therefore, devise a solution to the controversy of GM foods in Australia. Referenced literature is mainly taken from newspaper articles, websites and past research papers concerning GM foods. The report will attempt to accommodate both perspectives in the issue of GM foods so as to achieve an objective understanding of GM foods and come up with an appropriate solution for the controversy. Ultimately, while an effort is made to understand the issue of GM foods, aspects of the report such as the range of information collected, the scope of past researches available and a lack of sufficient scientific study at present are limitations that disable a complete and just judgement. The research report does not provide a detailed

understanding of the issue, but a general overview of the fundamental arguments that constitute the controversy today is achieved instead. 3.0 Genetic Engineering Genetic Engineering (GE) is a division of modern biotechnology that makes the production of GM foods possible by manipulating the genetic makeup of the plant crops, providing them with certain desired characteristics. Certain significant techniques used in GE are biolistics, electroporation, gene silencing, gene splicing, lipofection, microinjection, using bacterial/virus carriers etc. Genes function by instructing cells to produce certain enzymes or proteins that constitute the characteristics of the plant. In order to change the characteristics of the plant, scientists alter the original gene by inserting foreign genes so that it produces new enzymes or proteins. In biolistics, the chosen DNA is fastened to small particles of gold or metal tungsten. The DNA is then launched into the targeted cells. Similarly for electropolation, DNA is allowed to access a cell by passing through the cell wall. However, an electric current is used to break down the cell wall to allow DNA access. Biolistics and electropolation are the main techniques used for gene insertion. When eliminating undesirable genes, gene silencing and gene splicing are employed. Gene silencing is achieved by reversing the function of a gene by attaching a second copy of the same gene in the opposite orientation. The opposing directions of the two similar genes cause the genes to cancel each other so that there is no overall effect. Gene splicing modify gene characteristics through enzymes in bacteria that remove selected DNA. The techniques employed have been highly controversial as altered species of plants are made to be more resistant to control measures. Cross-breeding, development of antibiotic resistance and the merging of genes that may give rise to control resistantpests are some of the concerns that have been caused by GE. Besides that, ethical issues surrounding GM foods are also rooted in GE technology. GE technology involves manipulating the nature of plants, which is interpreted often as intruding the natural design of the world. Such an interpretation of GM foods has caused them to be seen as cheapskate products meant for famine victims. This is part of the reason why GM foods appeal less to consumers. GE technology has a significant role in GM foods and the controversy surrounding it and has to be considered in addressing the issues of GM foods.

4.0 Statement of Findings

The report is aimed at achieving an understanding of GM foods primarily through an economic and environmental perspective. The statement of findings comprises mainly of the economic and environmental issues that surround GM foods. In this section, both the benefits and disadvantages of producing GM foods are being presented. 4.1 Economic Aspects of Genetically Modified Foods 4.1.1 Production Cost The production cost of a food crop consists primarily of the costs of the seeds, fertiliser, processing, required pesticides and herbicides. In particular, herbicides and pesticides are vital in ensuring a secured level of yield in order to secure a desired amount of profit. Herbicides and pesticides, therefore, are highly relied upon and constitute a large portion of the total production cost. Producing GM foods reduces the production cost of a food crop because GM foods can be engineered to be pest and weed resistant. By being resistant to pests and weeds, GM foods need not be treated with as much pesticide or herbicides because they are able to resist the harms of pests and weeds. For example, it was reported that GM canola only require a third of the original amount of herbicide in conventional canola. (Gray, 2008) In other cases, GM foods are designed to be resistant to a certain type of pesticide which helps to eliminate pests but does not affect the food crop. For instance, a biotechnology company has invented a new variety of soybeans that possess a gene that causes them to be resistant to the insecticide, Roundup. This implies that the crop can be harvested safely and treated with Roundup to kill weeds but not the crop itself. There is an increase in production but a reduction in costs.(Watts K., 2008) Also, GM foods require less processing. The refined genetic make-up of GM foods causes them to achieve the desirable condition while being grown. Less processing for GM foods means that the production cost is reduced, which in turn increases the profit gained from producing GM foods. The low production cost of producing GM foods as compared to producing conventional foods causes GM foods to be highly profitable and hence, very popular among farmers. 4.12 Market Advantages The market advantages of producing GM foods can be attributed mainly to increased yields, early germination, and a great demand in highly populated economies. GM foods are engineered to be more highly yielding as compared to conventional crops because of characteristics like being pest and weed resistant, weather-resistant, and available for harvest for a prolonged amount of time. As the yields are increased, the supply of these food products is increased and a lower price has to be charged for the desired amount of monetary profit. Consumers are more willing to purchase goods with a lower price, causing GM foods to have more sales than conventional food

products. The high yields of GM foods are what provide the great market advantage for biotechnology companies and farmers. Also, early germination constitutes market advantages for the producers. (Gray, 2008) When the food crops are germinated and harvested earlier, they are ready to be sold on the market earlier than conventional food crops. Based on the faster availability of GM crops, consumers can already satisfy their needs from purchasing the GM crops even before conventional crops are available on the market. The early germination of GM crops is highly beneficial as it provides market advantages over conventional crops. GM foods are advantageous crops for production especially when food shortages are increasingly common in highly populated countries, where supply is unable to meet demand. For example in certain African economies, droughts have caused extensive starvation throughout the population as the productivity of such economies is diminished. The food available in such economies is costly and unaffordable by the general social class. Besides that, the increasing world population, currently at approximately 6 billion, places a great stress on natural resources and the food supply. By producing GM foods that are more highly-yielding, the price of foods will be cheaper and more affordable. There is a great number of economies that require cheaper alternatives and this provides much market opportunities for GM food producers. Producing GM foods provides a lot of market advantages, which is a reason for the great popularity of GM foods. 4.1.3 Biotechnology Profit Gains from Patented Genetically Modified Crops Through creating crops resistant to herbicides or pesticides, biotechnology companies are able to have increased market opportunities for the patented crops. In 1997, 50, 000 US farmers harvested approximately nine million acres of herbicideresistant soybeans, equal to 13 percent of the seventy-one million acres of soybeans in US. It was estimated that GM foods production was worth $75 million in 1995 and was expected to rise by 61% to $805 million in 2000. (Carpenter and Gianessi 1999) As seen, GM crop production is a potentially high-valued industry making it highly attractive. Biotechnology companies greatly benefit from the industry as there is an increased demand for GM supplies. Moreover, GM foods can be patented to prevent any attempts from farmers to copy the product. A patented GM food, being ‘discovered’ by a particular biotechnology company, is sold only by this company alone, hence causing a very limited source of supply for the GM food type. Farmers who are found possessing crops containing GM characteristics, regardless whether their crops have been contaminated by GM crops, are liable for heavy penalties. Because any purchase of the GM food type must be completed through the company, an increase in the demand of the GM food will cause a great increase in the companies’ profit. GM foods are able to be patented and promise high economic profits to biotechnology companies. The increased demand causes an increased supply of GM food products,

causing the biotechnology companies to invest more into researching new GM food alternatives, therefore creating a highly profitable industry that will benefit the economy. 4.2 Environmental Issues The environmental issues surrounding GM foods dominate the argument for not allowing GM foods. The environmental issues are mainly fear of uncontrolled cross contamination with natural plants, destruction of wildlife and ecology and the appearance of super weeds. 4.2.1 Cross Contamination with Natural Plants Producing GM foods on a commercial scale risks cross contamination in natural, conventional plants. (Chandler, 2008;Thomas, 2008; Ruffles, 2008) As GM foods are given the ability to stay unaffected by herbicides and pesticides, they are more resistant to control measures than conventional crops. Fears that the GM foods end up spreading uncontrollably were expressed by the Organic Federation of Australia. (Watts, 2008) The cross contamination of conventional crops, more importantly, causes increased health and environmental risks in supposedly non-GM crops (Chandler, 2008). This will threaten the safety of food products and limit the amount of conventional food crops that could be produced in the economy. Such threats have adverse economical affects. Due to the widespread cross contamination of GM canola in Canada in the past 10 years, it has been ‘impossible’ to segregate organic canola and GM canola. As a result, Canadian organic farmers are unable to produce pure organic canola and are denied access to the European Market. (Lewis, 2008) Also, farmers discovered with crops possessing GM transgenes, regardless of the cause, are held liable by the patent holder (Van Acker, 2008). The cross contamination of GM crops does not benefit the farmers using GM seeds more than it does for organic farmers. Producing GM crops greatly staggers the production of organic crops. Cross contamination is a detrimental effect of the production of GM crops and has to be considered when deciding whether or not to commercially produce GM crops. 4.2.2 Destruction of Ecology and Wildlife The destruction of ecology and wildlife by mass production of GM crops is extended from the contamination of conventional crops by GM crops. Wildlife is affected by GM crops through the contamination of native plants, of which wildlife depends on. The direction of the effects of GM crops is therefore, in sequence: cross contamination of conventional crops, followed by the affect of altered conventional crops on wildlife.

GM crops are produced to have high resistance to diseases and pests so as to increase yield and therefore, economical benefit. Their high resistance to control measures allow GM crops to become more widespread than conventional crops and increases their ability of contaminating conventional crops. This subsequently gives rise to a sharp decrease in the number of conventional crops and native plants, and a great increase in the population of GM plants. In other words, conventional crops and native plants are taken over by GM plants and become extinct. For example, the hybridisation between cultivated rice Oryza sativa and Taiwanese wild rice Oryza rufipogon ssp. Formosana resulted in the continual decline of Taiwanese wild rice characteristics in native populations in Taiwan (Kiang et al., 1979) Within 80 years, the populations of Taiwanese wild rice in Taiwan have declined to near extinction. (St. Amand, 2004) Segregating Taiwanese wild rice and cultivated rice has been unsuccessful, which led to the decline in natural species and increase in undesired GM-affected rice populations. The extinction of natural plant species leads further to the bottlenecking of wild animals. (St. Amand, 2004) As the population of natural plant species declines and the population of GM-plants increases, the GM transgenes acquire a greater potential to spread into the ecosystem. Severed habitat erosion and increased transgene distribution causes animal species to lose the diet and habitat on which they are reliant, hence leading to a decline in native wild animal populations. The commercial production of GM crops results in cross contamination of natural plant species, affecting the ecosystem of the area and endangers wildlife and biodiversity. 4.2.3 Weed resistance Weed herbicide-resistance greatly increases as weeds are continually being treated using a certain pesticide. The “one-gene-one-pest” approach commonly seen in the production of GM food crops is able to be easily surmounted by pests that continually adapt to new environments. (Altieri, 2004) This takes place especially when a particular pesticide or herbicide is used repeatedly on a crop, where the chance of weed herbicide-resistance is increased. 216 pesticide resistance issues have been reported in one or more herbicide chemical families. (Altieri, 2004) As the use of herbicide for GM foods greatly increases with commercial scale production, farmland being treated with a wide range of herbicides will produce more herbicide-resistant weeds. For instance, it is estimated that glyphosate will expand to approximately 150 million acres. These affects have been observed already in Australian populations of annual ryegrass, quackgrass, birdsfoot trefoil, Cirsium arbense, and Eleusine indica. Weeds are highly widespread and often absorb a large amount of nutrition from the environment and limit the health of native plant species. The commercial scale production of GM food crops causes a potential increase in weeds, posing a threat on the environment. 4.3 Health Issues

The main health issues of producing GM foods are food allergies, diseases, and nutritional and medicinal benefits. 4.3.1 Food allergies There have been hopes that GM foods could eliminate food allergies. By using GE, the genetic make-up can be manipulated to remove genes responsible for allergies. Commercial scale production of allergy-free GM foods will provide people with a wider range of choices. The concern with producing GM foods to eliminate food allergies is the uncertain risks associated with them. While new genetic structures can eliminate certain food allergies, new allergies may be produced. More importantly, these allergy-causing properties can be more serious and widespread than previous allergy-related issues, where new allergenic plant types are produced. (St. Amand, 2004) Therefore, although GM foods are potentially beneficial in eliminating food allergies, the risks of such usage of GM foods are yet to be known. Preventive measures could only be executed when these dangers are known. More investment should be made concerning the study and research of GM foods and food allergies. 4.3.2 Diseases GM foods are a potential cause of diseases as the release of GM plant crops to the environment act as new sources of toxins or allergens in the food supply. (St. Armand, 2004) When tested with rats in a laboratory, GM foods have been found to cause big variations in the digestive system, consisting of the stomach, jejunum, ileum, caecum and the colon. In the experiment, rats were fed with potatoes that were modified to produce the lectin from snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). The results reveal that rats fed with the modified potatoes had significantly thicker stomach walls and greater crypt lengths. (Murray, 2003) Antibiotic resistance present in GM foods may also lead to more widespread diseases. Overuse of antibiotics encourages an increase in the resistance of disease-causing bacteria. Through conjugation, bacteria are able to continually exchange genetic information. This implies that the presence of antibiotics resistance in a bacterium can easily be transferred and multiplied in other bacteria. Increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria then leads antibiotics to be less effective when combating disease-carrying bacteria. For instance, stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori are more difficult to treat as the bacterium has been substantially resistant to two of the three antibiotics used at the same time to remedy gastric ulcers since 1986. (Murray, 2003) In the 1980s, a genetically engineered brand of the food supplement L-Tryptophan created a fatal disease that killed 100 and caused illnesses in approximately 5000 to 10000 consumers. (Wilden, 2008)

If GM food crops are to be allowed for commercial-scale production in Australia, the potential diseases and health hazards of GM food crops have to be further investigated to prevent these undesirable consequences. At the moment, insufficient research is present to confirm the safety of GM foods. 4.3.3 Nutritional and Medicinal Benefits GM foods can be manipulated to contain nutritional and medicinal benefits. Primarily because GM foods are designed to be more pest and weed resistant, there are fewer factors that reduce the nutrition in the soil. More nutritional soil causes more nutritional yields. Also, GM foods are made by inserting genes from foreign sources to a food crop. This implies that medicinal and nutritional characteristics can be given to the GM food crop from genes originating in another source. Beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins and certain antioxidants, can be inserted into a conventional food product to increase its nutritional value. For instance, bananas made to contain bacterial or rotavirus antigens act as edible vaccines to increase the body’s immune system. (Watts K., 2008) The potential nutritional and medicinal benefits of GM foods make up a part of the pro-GM argument. 5.0 Stakeholders The stakeholders of the commercial-scale production of GM foods are the government, businesses and industries, farmers, environmentalists and Australian consumers. Each party's concerns must be taken into account when making decisions over GM food production. 5.1 The Government The objectives of the government are to achieve maximum economic growth while maintaining minimal environmental damage and a satisfactory level of social welfare. A major challenge faced by the government is assessing the value of the environment against the importance of the economy. The environment, being a public good, cannot be accounted for by the price mechanism. On the other hand, economic profit is represented conveniently through monetary value. The government is responsible for managing the economy and the environment. In Australia, the federal government's stance concerning GM foods is represented through Food Safety Australia New Zealand FSANZ. The agency is authorised to control the production and sales of food products and will only approve GM foods if they are safe for consumption. The safety of food is assessed by FSANZ consistently using test results from biotechnology companies. This approach of assessing the safety of GM foods remains flawed. FSANZ are able to independently generate conclusions on GM foods, but the data used is derived from biotechnology companies which are likely to manipulate the data. With FSANZ's

approval of a GM product, the biotechnology company is able to gain huge sums of profit from its production and will at its best attempt to generate results showing that the GM product contains minimal harm. Biotechnology companies have also been known to deny research requests and submit flawed data. (Wilden, 2008) The government has yet to revise its security assessment of GM foods. 4.1.2 Anti-GM State Governments Different state governments have had different approaches to GM foods. Currently in Australia, the only states that have lifted moratoria on GM food production are Victoria and New South Wales (Gray, 2008), while Western Australia and South Australia are still considering to lift the moratoria. Tasmania is extending its moratorium for another 5 years. Reasons for banning commercial production of GM foods are maintaining a clean and green image, preventing harm towards the environment, market advantages and reduced impacts on human health. (Brown, 2008) The pressure of allowing commercial GM production has been intense: for South Australia, lifting the moratorium promises it $135 million per year, while the cost of not lifting the ban is estimated to be $3 billion over 10 years and being 2 years behind east coast farmers. (Vaughan et al., 2008) As far as the government is concern, Australia will definitely produce GM foods commercially as long as the risks are mostly addressed or eliminated. GM foods are highly beneficial economically and the government will allow commercial production of GM foods to achieve economic growth. Meanwhile, more research has to be funded concerning the risks of GM foods. 5.2 Farmers 5.2.1 Organic Farmers Organic farmers are largely not supportive towards mass production of GM crops. GM crops contaminate other closely related conventional species easily, including organic crops. This has serious consequences. In the past few decades, GM canola has been widely produced in Canada. The fast spread of GM canola has contaminated neighbouring conventional canola crops. Gradually, the segregation of conventional crops has become increasingly difficult as virtually all canola crops in Canada are found to contain transgenes. This has cost Canadian organic canola to be expelled from the European market. Besides that, increasing GM foods in the market decreases the sales of organic foods. During food crisis, people are more willing to purchase cheaper products. Because GM foods have higher yields and are cheaper, consumers will be more willing to purchase GM foods rather than organic foods, hence leading to a decrease in sales. Organic farmers in Australia are concerned about GM contamination because organic farmers may lose their marketing opportunities if GM crops and conventional crops cannot be segregated. As the Organic Federation of Australia's representative, Eric Love, expressed, GM foods end up spreading uncontrollably and GM foods are

detrimental to human health. (Watts, 2008) GM food production will be very risky towards organic farmers, which are the reason organic farmers oppose the mass production of GM crops. Losing the $400 million worth Australian organic industry will be costly and regrettable. 5.2.2 Pro-GM Farmers Pro-GM farmers urge for moratoria to be lifted in view of the high economic profit gained from the commercial production of GM foods. The views of pro-GM farmers can be represented by the West Australian Farmers Federation. The primary argument is that local farmers are missing valuable commercial opportunities as moratoria are yet to be lifted. Pro-GM farmers further argue that GM crops are less costly, a healthier choice and more environmental friendly, which is based on the decreased use of pesticide and less processing. While there is much controversy surrounding the second argument, there is little scepticism that the commercial production of GM crops is very beneficial economically. In South Australia alone, the estimated trade and economic profit gained upon lifting moratoria is $135 million annually. (Vaughan et al.) As the world economy becomes increasingly competitive, farmers in Australia are persuaded to be supportive towards the commercial production of GM crops. The National Farmers Federation supported ending the New South Wales moratorium on GM crops, stating that GM crops will increase the competitiveness of the agricultural industry. (Lewis, 2008) This explains the strong urge for lifting GM bans. 5.3 Businesses and Industries Businesses and industries are largely supportive towards the mass production of GM foods because of the great amount of market opportunities present. New businesses could be founded upon the new GM industry and biotechnology companies could gain a large amount of profit by patenting their GM products. As the production of GM foods becomes more widespread, the government, farmers and various stakeholders have to devise risk assessments of GM foods. Businesses will also be interested in retailing GM products due to the great popularity of cheaper GM foods. More job opportunities are hence available with the mass production of GM food crops. Besides, increased production of GM foods will cause biotechnology companies to gain more profit and fund more research that would create better versions of GM foods. The great yield of biotechnology companies causes them to be supportive of GM foods. 5.4 Australians Surveys have revealed that consumers are generally more concerned with the ethical issues underlying GM foods rather than the economic benefit gained from producing

GM foods, provided that GM foods are reasonably priced. Consumers are more willing to purchase conventional products because conventional products, by experience, are safer and more stable than GM products. The views of Australians, supportive and not supportive towards GM products, are presented here. 5.4.1 Pro-GM Australians Australian supportive towards GM foods are generally motivated by more economical choices upon allowing mass production of GM foods. GM foods represent a greater number of choices on the market that can accommodate people with allergy or other various needs. By mass producing GM foods, consumers are given more choices, cheaper choices than conventional foods. Given a period of time, consumers originally not supporting GM foods join the group of pro-GM Australians. The welfare of consumers is largely based on the amount of choices they can make. Decreased costs decreases the opportunity cost of consuming a good, while more food choices give consumers a bigger freedom to select goods at their pleasure. 5.4.2 Anti-GM Australians Australians opposing GM foods are primarily concerned that the production of GM foods is a violation of ethics (Leung et al.) and that GM foods are low-quality products. The impression of GM foods has been such that they are the product of man's intervention of naturally occurring food species. GM foods are viewed to be against nature and against God, because they are not available naturally. The production of GM foods is seen to be a violation of God's design for the universe and therefore, should not be allowed. Moreover, GM foods have been seen as a cheapskate method to overcome famine, particularly in poor nations. GM crops are therefore seen as inferior as compared to conventional crops, possessing a lower quality. Consumers who are economically stable are more willing to purchase good quality goods than low quality goods because there is a higher level of satisfaction from consuming good quality goods. Although there is a greater amount of food products available by mass GM production, the law of decreasing marginal utility limits the amount of satisfaction gained from every additional amount of the good. For consumer based products, a greater emphasis is based in the quality rather than the quantity of the good. This explains why consumers may not be attracted by the notion of increased goods available. The above highlights the main objections of the commercial production of GM foods by consumers in Australia. 6.0 Discussion

The mass production of GM foods has still a high level of uncertainty despite the presence of gene technology nearly three decades ago. The newly emerged technology has sparked much controversy: to grow or not to grow. As seen, people are highly concerned about the economic profit possibly gained from economic activities, as this is nonetheless the crucial factor that decides the standard of living in the society. For instance, the farmers represented by the WA Farmers Federation are concerned about missing valuable commercial opportunities, and how this may affect their livelihood. Yet, it is man's responsibility to protect the environment and keep exploitation of the environment by economic activity at a minimum, as noted from the efforts of organisations such as Greenpeace, Gene-ethics etc. to stop the commercial production of GM food crops. For the time being, pro-GM farmers, biotechnology companies and other various parties argue that GM foods will be highly profitable, insignificantly harmful to the environmental (or harmless towards the environment) and healthy. These parties are constrained to the stance that promises multiple benefits; any exaggeration is nonetheless aimed at making their point straightforward and firm, that GM food crops are a need for making our agricultural industry more productive. Opposing parties have firm stances that deny, or otherwise undermine, the benefits related to GM food crops to achieve similar objectives. From the research, it is observable that the society is attempting its best to better the economy. The society possesses a very strong technology, GE, but there is a large number of risks surrounding the technology like cross contamination, destruction of the environment etc. and even uncertain risks that are potential threats to society. These threats are not only environmental, but economic as well. For instance, if GM foods have reached a state where the majority of countries are dominated by the production of GM foods while a disease or a particular adverse irreversible affect is found in the GM food products, nations not producing GM foods will be at an advantage as consumers will be demanding more non-GM food products. This is possible due to the large number of unknown adverse effects present behind the mass production of GM foods, all of which may be discovered at one point in time or another. Since this is still largely unknown, there is still an economic danger underlying mass production of GM foods. In view of this, Australia will be at an advantage if it continues to ban GM food products as it would be supplying the majority of its resources for non-GM food production. Again, if Australia was not to adhere to this technological advancement now, it would be disadvantaged as other countries become economically more competitive. Another issue underlying GM foods is the long term economic benefit gained by Australia. GM foods have been invented for merely three decades and have only been used by developed nations. As economies constituting the major global market gradually take up GM production, the overall competition in the market will return to initial levels as the major members of the global market are upgraded to have an increased production using the same GE technology. The overall competition is the same and the commercial production of GM foods becomes meaningless.

The law of demand states that demand increases while the price of goods decreases. However when there is an over-supply of food, where excess goods are not able to be sold, and the waste generated from GM food production will be very high. There is no meaning in creating a great number of goods for economic profit that is only available to the reasonably wealthy (in developed countries) and unavailable to the remaining of the population. The purpose of creating GM food products for excessive, massive yield is a question that has yet to be answered. Frankly stated, commercial production of GM food crops is important as a future technology that will enhance production, but there are many risks that may affect other areas of production. The risks associated with commercially producing GM foods require measures that will at best cover the risks. At present, insufficient research evidence is present to adequately cover the risks associated with commercially producing GM foods. It would prove to be unwise if the economy hurries into mass production of GM foods in search of monetary benefit. The environment is more important for humans to conserve than the economy, because harms bestowed upon the environment are very difficult to eliminate, while the monetary profit gained from production only promises an increased opportunity for exchanging good and not any physical value. Research on the effects of GM foods is strongly recommended. Any economic profit gained can only be beneficial if it provides an increased overall livelihood for the people, and not solely increased benefit for a small group of companies or firms. Even if mass production of GM foods was allowed, it would not be fully worthwhile as the benefit gained is concentrated only in a certain sector of the economy. GM foods cannot dominate the majority of the agricultural industry presently as the majority of its risks remain unknown. The mass production of GM foods is not yet the future of Australian agriculture. 7.0 Recommendations As the research assignment has been designed to be focused on the environmental and economic aspects of the mass production of GM foods, the above sections have only taken into account how the environmental and economic issues have shaped the decision concerning GM foods today. The research has been based primarily on literature reviews of news articles, websites and books. These sources can present a general overview of the issues surrounding the mass production of GM foods, but details have not been able to be explored in the report. A limitation of this research is the small amount of resources that directly relate the Australian economy to the production of GM foods in Australia. The majority of texts available have shown only evidence from foreign economies. In particular, the reliance of the Australian economy and estimated effects of GM food production

specific to the Australian economy have not been discussed in the resources employed for this research. Still, the major economic and environmental aspects of the issue were very widely presented to give a general overview of the issue. Further reading is recommended on the Australian agricultural industry and its relation to the mass production of GM foods for a more complete comprehension of the issue. 7.0 Conclusion GM foods are potential production targets of the Australian agricultural industry due to the high economic profit gained from the mass production of GM foods. Research is strongly recommended concerning the hazards of GM foods. The mass production of GM foods is not suitable at present due to insufficient scientific evidence underlying the issue. Therefore, the mass production of GM foods is not suitable to be the future of Australian agriculture.

8.0 References and Bibliography Altieri, Miguel A. 2004. Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: The Myths, Environmental Risks, and Alternatives. Food First Books, Oakland, California, pp. 3557. Brown, Damien 2008. 'Call to resist GM crops', Hobart Mercury, 29/08/2008, p. 10 Carpenter, J. Gianessi, L. 1999. Why U.S. Farmers are Adopting Genetically Modified Crops. Economic Perspectives. Chandler, Jo 2008 ‘Lifting the lid on the GM genie’, The Age, 01/03/2008, p. 5(1) Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2009, Genetically Modified Food, [Online] Available at, 08/06/2009 Gray, Darren 2008 ‘Fields of genetically modified gold have farmers smiling’, The Age, 11/09/2008, p.9 Kiang, Y.T., J. Antonovics, and L. Wu 1979. The extinction of wild rice (Oryza prennis-formosana) in Taiwan. Journal of Asian Ecology, 1:1-9 Leung, Chee Chee and Guerrera, Orietta 2007.' Seeds of dissent:farmers split over GM canola move', The Age(Melbourne), 01/07/2007, p. 4 Lewis, Daniel 2008 ‘GM crops costly, Canadian warns’, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/02/2008, p.7 Murray, David R. 2003 'Environmental and Health Impacts of Genetically Modified Plants', Seeds of concern: the genetic manipulation of plants. UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia, pp. 85-98. Queensland Government 2001, Gene Technology Act, [Online] Available at 08/06/2009 Ruffles, Michael 2008 ‘Reaping the GM harvest: Farmers in two states can soon start growing GM canola’, Canberra Times, 01/12/2007, B4 St. Amand, P. 2004, ‘Risks Associated with Genetically Engineered Crops’ in G.H. Liang, D. Z. Skinner (ed.) Genetically modified crops: their development, uses, and risks 2004, The Harworth Press, New York, pp.351-363.

Thompson, Jodie 2008 ‘GM canola may shut growers out of markets’, West Australian, 05/02/2008, p. 12 Van Acker, Rene 2008 'Look to Canada for GE solutions', Canberra Times, 05/02/2008, p. 11 Vaughan, Joanna and Austin, Nigel 2008. 'Ban to stay on GM crops', The Advertiser(Adelaide), 09/02/2008, p. 9 Watts, Kristen 2008. ‘GM: Fine food or frankenstein?’ West Australian, 23/04/2008, pp. 2&3 Wilden, Necia 2008. 'GM foods are unsafe.' The Age (Melbourne), 19/02/2008, p. 10

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