Agricultural Sustainability and the Introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
In order to cater for the predicted growth in global population and aspirations for increased living standards, the world needs to increase substantially its level of agricultural production and sustain agriculture’s increased productivity. New technologies may enable this to occur but they also bring with them increased sustainability problems. There are many complex dimensions to achieving agricultural sustainability such as deciding on what agricultural attributes are worth sustaining and considering what trade-offs in objectives are required. These issues are discussed from a conceptual point of view. It is also shown using economic theory that market-based agriculture limits the opportunity for individual farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural techniques because of competitive economic pressures. It is argued that while modern agricultural methods and increased inter-regional trade have substantially increased agricultural supplies, they have also exacerbated the problem of sustaining agricultural production and yields and have had a disequilibrating effect on rural communities. Although genetic engineering is seen by some as a way forward for increasing agricultural production, it is shown that GMOs do not ensure sustainability of agricultural production and that they can be a source of rural disharmony and can threaten the sustainability of farming communities. Extension of intellectual property rights in new genetic material in recent times, particularly the granting of patents not only on techniques for producing GMOs but on the organisms themselves, have added to sustainability problems faced by modern agriculture.
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