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Economic Impact of GM Foods

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 22 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
Economy Gm Foods Production Costs Crops

Given the costs of bringing in a genetically modified (GM) food to the market, any biotechnology company will logically want to make a good profit on their time, efforts and money. However, farmers also want a profitable return and consumers want to purchase foods at a reasonable cost. No matter what level of production, the economical impact of GM foods plays a role in all aspects of bringing a food to the market.

Using Patents for Profits

Due to the enormous cost and time investment in developing successful GM products, patents exist to protect the rights of companies. There are many genetic engineering techniques and GM products that have been patented. In the biotechnology field, patent infringement is a huge and controversial issue.

Unfortunately, there are economic concerns around the use of patents. Consumer groups worry that by placing a patent on a new kind of GM plant, the price of the seeds can be raised to such an extent that small-scale farm operations and farmers in developing countries will not be able to afford these GM varieties of crops.

In this way, the divide between wealthy and poor nations will be increased quite significantly. Some people have the hope that costs can be lowered when companies are seeking to sell GM seeds to developing and third world countries.

Enforcing Patents and the Economic Challenges

Trying to enforce a patent can be very challenging because some of the farmers who have grown GM products from companies such as Monsanto have cited that they did not do so by choice. Instead, they claim that their GM crops are the result of cross-pollination. To handle this kind of issue, biotechnology companies can insert a 'suicide gene' into the modified plant. Then, the plant can only be sustained for one growing season and there would be the production of seeds that are unable to germinate.

The end result is that farmers would be forced to purchase new seeds each year. Yet, if you consider the economic challenges of third world countries and developing nations, this would be an economic disaster. They would be unable to afford the seeds every year. In contrast, most farmers would usually put a portion of their harvest aside each year to plant in the following year.

Consumer Costs

The pricing of GM foods at the consumer level can vary a great deal. In some instances, prices are higher while other times they can be lower, which reflect the complex array of factors influencing GM food pricing as well as the impact of various production levels. For consumers against GM foods, they can expect to spend more if they choose organic products.

This increased cost tends to relate to the smaller scale of many organic operations – particularly local ones. In fact, the organics industry has experienced rapid growth, which some partially attribute to the public mistrust of GM products in Britain. While the full economic impact of GM foods is difficult to determine, it is clear that there is little consistency from one GM crop or market to another.

At the present time, more focus needs to be placed on resolving the issues relating to the economical impact of GM foods. In turn, this can help countries to successfully grow GM crops and allow for economic prosperity at every level of the production process.

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Are there any sources or references for this? Specifically on the pricing of GM foods at the consumer level, or on farmers not being able to afford the GM varieties of crops?
StillLearning - 12-Dec-16 @ 7:34 AM
This was very helpful for my essay on the impacts of modified food.
KK - 18-Sep-13 @ 12:10 AM
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