SOCIOECONOMIC EFFECTS OF GMO USE
In addition to the disadvantages that the use of GMOs may cause in the ecosystem and human health, the following results are expected in the socio-economic structures of developing countries as a result of the widespread use of agricultural biotechnology in the current market structure.
Possible effects of agricultural biotechnology on local farming systems
The effects of agricultural biotechnology-based production and product trade on local agricultural systems are in parallel with the economic, social and ethical problems that may arise due to the monopolistic activities of agricultural biotechnology companies arising from the global liberal system that has become widely valid today and the structure of the current world food sector. In this framework, the world’s multinational pharmaceutical, chemical and seed companies can direct the production and marketing of GMOs in a monopolistic and profit-oriented manner, with the support of the unbalanced global economic system; It brings the risk of social, economic and ethical problems to deepen the south-north, poor-rich contrast.
In an environment where the GMO market is shaped in this way in the global system, it seems inevitable that the agricultural systems and agricultural lifestyles of developing countries, which do not have the facilities for agricultural biotechnology production that requires advanced technology, will decline as a result of the commercial pressure of multinational companies and become dependent on the countries producing the gene technology.
Another reason for the negative effects of agricultural biotechnology on local agricultural systems can be explained by the patenting of gene-transferred plant varieties. From this point of view, regulations have been introduced that secure the use of genes modified by many regulations under patents. Some of these are listed as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Budapest Treaty, the WTO Establishment Agreement, the TRIPS Agreement, the European Patent Convention, the EC Council Directive 98/44 on the Protection of Biotechnological Inventions, the UPOV Convention on the Establishment of an International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (Yalçıner, 2000: 76-78).
The inclusion of patented modern biotechnology products within the scope of “intellectual, industrial and commercial property rights” has been ensured by the Commercial Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regulated by the WTO. According to the regulation brought by TRIPS, as in intellectual property rights, it is stated that since 1995, a prohibition of copying, using and producing the products subject to “breeder” patent has been imposed for 1 year for developed countries, 5 years for developing countries and 11 years for underdeveloped countries (Açıkgöz, 2000b). :51). However, when these regulations are taken into consideration in general, it is seen that the patent scope of commercial biotechnology products, apart from the studies on humans and microorganisms, has not been fully finalized yet.
Despite ethical and scientific objections, the patent protection of biotechnology products can be effective in increasing monopoly and foreign dependency in agricultural production. As a matter of fact, with the Biological Diversity Agreement and the GATT Uruguay period negotiations, the inclusion of genetically modified traits in the scope of patents with the “Intellectual Property Rights” and “Intellectual Property Rights-Counterfeit Goods Treaty (TRIPS)” in the Uruguay Round Final Act, it is possible for developing countries to It is predicted that this will pave the way for the acceleration of the exploitation of biological reserves. In this context, according to the regulation brought with TRIPS, if Turkey and other similar countries do not take the necessary measures to protect their own gene resources until 2005, these resources and the derivative resources obtained from them will be patented and will be under the control of countries and multinational companies with the necessary technology. is indicated (Yürekli, 1995: 57).
Due to the inclusion of modified organisms in the patent system with modern biotechnology applications, it is seen that multinational companies have started to obtain patents on the products they have changed. According to the calculations, it is stated that 4 biotechnology companies hold 44 percent of the patents on the world’s most important food crops (Madeley, 2003: 129). In general, the status of the number of patents obtained by modern biotechnology companies on food products is given in the Table.
The data in the table support the risk of monopolization that has been voiced regarding the way the patent system works and its future effects. In the light of all this, it is seen that the estimations that “agricultural imperialism”, which is realized as the seizure of local potential agricultural production, will gain momentum and enter a new direction (Yürekli, 1995: 56) with the regulations of GATT and WTO regarding the evaluation of genetic resources with biotechnology methods.
Another factor that increases foreign dependency in agricultural production can be explained by the strategy followed by multinational companies marketing genetically transmitted seeds. In this context, the world’s seed giants such as Monsanto, while marketing GMO seeds, also put on the market the pesticide, irrigation and fertilization techniques related to the agriculture of that product in the form of packages and prevent the seed from germinating for the second time with a special method called “terminator technology”. Thus, on the one hand, producers are left without alternatives in terms of equipment required for agricultural activities, and on the other hand, they have to buy the same seed from the same company every time. Studies conducted in Southern countries reveal that the current agricultural biotechnology sector is increasingly dependent on foreign sources and threatens the sustainability of local agricultural systems (www.globalresponse.org).
Another risk that agricultural biotechnology poses for developing countries can be expressed as the possibility of loss of agricultural biodiversity due to the disappearance of wild plant species and the homogenization of a single variety depending on demand. In this context, it is stated that in the countries that are GMO products and gene technology buyers, in case of production of certain modified species, the cultivated varieties may decrease over time due to the difficulties in the agricultural production preferences of domestic producers. As a result, it is argued that developing countries may become colonies in terms of agricultural production as a result of the decrease in the competitiveness of local agricultural systems on the one hand and the chance of sustainability on the other. (Özsoy, 1995: 46). The introduction of agricultural biotechnology into countries where traditional agriculture is practiced will cause the agricultural population to be cut off and excluded from the ongoing form of agricultural processing. It is inevitable that the excluded agricultural population will impose new social burdens on developing countries, which are overwhelmed by social problems.
Possible effects of agricultural biotechnology on agricultural crop growers and consumers
It can be thought that classical cultivar breeders may be adversely affected due to the transition of the characteristics of GMO cultivars to classical cultivars through gene escape and artificial pollination. In this context, in an environment where GMO varieties are grown, it will not be possible for farmers producing conventional varieties to produce in a healthy way; In this case, it is claimed that the farmers who do classical aquaculture may be aggrieved by limiting the producers’ right to choose varieties (Özgen, 2000:1). The transition of the characteristics of GMO varieties to conventional varieties may lead to threats to the rights of both producers of classical varieties and food consumers. In this context, the widespread production and use of GMOs, on the one hand, forces producers to produce certain varieties, on the other hand, restricts consumers’ right to access sufficient variety and healthy products.
From this point of view, considering that a large part of the world’s agricultural population makes a living with classical farming, it is seen that local producers will be under the threat of biotechnological agriculture. In this context, in a statement made by an organization consisting of many South Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Bangkok, as the trade of GMOs spread in line with the rules of the WTO, the competitiveness of local agricultural productions decreased, gene resources were threatened and small It is reported that farmers are left in a difficult situation by being directed towards uniform production. On the other hand, it is stated that a farmer in the Dakota had to make an agreement to export transgenic soybeans to Japan, but had to give up on the cost of biosecurity processes and caused a great loss. From this point of view, it is argued that only multinational companies and the countries they represent benefit from biotech agriculture and the food security of humanity is threatened (Abud and Iskandardinata, 2003).
Economic losses caused by agricultural biotechnology
The widespread production of GMOs brings important economic losses to the agenda, contrary to the expectations created, as well as the expected yield increase in the short term. The unbalanced structure of the sector and the negative impact of agricultural activities in this direction on biodiversity lie at the root of the economic losses that may be caused by agricultural biotechnology based on GMOs. In this framework, the harms that may arise from the application of modern biotechnology to the biological resources and agricultural production systems of developing countries, which have 96 percent of the gene resources that are the basis of world food production (Doğan, 2002:3); In addition to the social and ethical problems it will bring, it also constitutes the source of economic losses that may arise. Because, the loss of agricultural biodiversity due to the standardization of gene resources due to the widespread use of agricultural biotechnology may lead to the disappearance of the chance of sustainability of agricultural production and to large economic losses in the future beyond the expected gains in the short term.
The economic aspect of biodiversity stems from the fact that the sustainability of economic activities depends on biodiversity. According to the calculations, it is estimated that the 1-year economic equivalent of biodiversity is approximately 3 trillion USD, and the total value of ecosystem services is 33 trillion USD. Based on this situation, it is stated that the 1-year return on the world’s current biodiversity is 3 trillion dollars, and the potential economic value that can be obtained depending on all ecosystems is around 33 trillion dollars in 1 year. These data clearly reveal that the economic value of biodiversity is incomparably greater than any other resource. The estimated economic value of biological diversity stems from the existence of gene resources of all varieties, especially “wild species”, which are accepted as the assurance of the sustainability of ecosystems. Plant varieties that make up the flora (plant biodiversity) of a region are divided into varieties in production or out of production, local varieties, transitional forms and close relatives or wild species (Özgen, 2000:1). From this point of view, it is understood that gene resources are based on a wide base, including discontinued varieties and species that are currently considered as material in breeding studies.
In plant breeding studies, all the varieties listed above are used as a gene source (generator) of cultivated plants and agricultural production is carried out in this way. In this context, the importance of wild species for agricultural production is expressed as “Wild species are gene stores that have a wide genetic base and constitute an important resource for the elimination of future problems of cultivated plants or for the acquisition of new characteristics to plants” (Özgen et al., 2000:230). According to the researches of agricultural experts, it is thought that there are about 3 thousand plant species that can produce nutrients in the world, and 150 of them have been cultivated from the past to the present. It is stated that rice and corn plant species meet 2/3 of the world’s food needs (Doğan, 2002: 3) These data clearly reveal the economic importance of agricultural diversity.
Considering that the cultivated plants produced in agriculture are developed by breeding wild species, the importance of wild gene resources for agricultural production is clearly understood. However, as a result of repeated breeding processes for a long time, it has been observed that the gene structures of cultivated plants have narrowed and become homogeneous over time. At this point, wild plant species are gaining more and more importance as indispensable genitalia in increasing the yield of cultivated plants, thanks to their wide gene base. As a matter of fact, obtaining cultivated plants with high economic value and very wide ecological tolerance from wild species with no economic value reveals the importance of wild species and gene resources for the sustainability of agricultural production. The elimination of the disease with a gene taken from a wild wheat variety brought from Turkey, after a fungal species in the USA caused a disease that caused great damage to wheat (Doğan, 2002:4) shows the economic value of wild gene resources. In this context, the threat of all biological diversity, especially wild species, due to the cultivation of gene-transferred plant species, may cause enormous economic losses that cannot be compensated in the long run.
The results of the cultivation of genetically transmitted plants can be summarized as the narrowing of agricultural biodiversity due to the widespread use of “uniform planting”, the impossibility of agricultural control due to the transmission of some characteristics of genetically transmitted varieties to wild species and pests, and the deterioration of ecological balance. The effect of the cultivation of gene-transferred plant varieties on the reduction of agricultural biodiversity is explained by the interaction between cultivated plants and their wild varieties. In this context, the fact that pollen exchange occurs easily between the gene-transfer culture types and their wild varieties shows the standardizing aspect of biotechnological agriculture (Özgen et al., 2000:274).
On the other hand, the possibility of damage to other species and resistance of some pests as a result of the transfer of traits of gene-transfer plants containing “Bt” toxin and antibiotics to the natural environment due to gene escape is considered as another source of economic damage (Özgen et al., 2000:275). . The effect of this escape of the herbicide resistance gene from GMOs to other organisms is expressed as follows: “… for example, if you want to produce a pesticide-resistant rapeseed, the result will be a complete disaster. Rapeseed will hybridize with wild radish and many other wild plants. Many weeds will in turn become resistant, and in the final stage it will take a fortune to get rid of them.” (Pelt et al., 2002:139) This situation strikingly reveals the extent of the economic losses that biotech agriculture can cause.
Both the damage that the production of GMOs by large multinational companies holding this technology can cause to local agribusiness and the expensiveness of agricultural biotechnology are considered as another factor of economic destruction. The spread of varieties supported by market conditions, but the lack of production of unpreferred varieties may lead to the disappearance of many varieties, resulting in a uniformization of the sociology of the product. This situation can make the sustainability of agricultural production seriously impossible. As a natural consequence of foreign dependency, the destruction of local agricultural systems can cause great economic losses in countries suffering from food shortages.
The fact that the production of GMOs will not be profitable as claimed, also shows that agricultural biotechnology is extremely expensive. To give an example, it is stated that it is calculated that the development of the gene-transferred tomato in order to extend its shelf life and its delivery to the consumer will cause a cost of around 25 million USD (Haktanır, 2001:11). Another reason why the cultivation of gene-transferred plants is expensive is that the seeds of the plant in question are marketed as packages with other pesticides. In this case, a producer who wants to plant the seed with gene transfer should buy other agricultural products such as pesticides from the same company together with the related plant seed. It is claimed that this situation will both increase the cost of cultivation and increase foreign dependency (Özgen et al., 2000:275).
One of the economic losses that agricultural biotechnology may cause in the future can be explained by the developments in the world market. In the near future, it is thought that the consumption of products and foods produced with this technology can be avoided in the aforementioned countries, under the influence of public pressures from GMO exporting countries such as the USA and EU countries. In this case, there is a danger that countries such as Turkey, which is an important exporter of agricultural products, may suffer great economic losses due to the decrease in competitiveness in foreign sales. For this reason, threatening biological reserves, which may be the determinant of economic competition in the near future, by the production of GMOs, instead of developing options that will increase product yield in a way that will ensure the sustainability of agricultural production, and taking measures to eliminate the injustice of food distribution, may lead to social and economic losses to a large extent.
Sociocultural impacts of agricultural biotechnology
As a result of the spread of biotechnological agriculture, the decline in traditional agricultural production structure, the loss of agricultural biological diversity and the increase in foreign dependency as a result of the decrease in the competitiveness of domestic agricultural products may also bring about a series of local and global changes in the socio-cultural field.
As a result of the pressure of biotechnological agriculture, pushing the cultivation of local agricultural products to the background may cause agricultural production and consumption preferences to change towards GMO products. This situation, on the other hand, may cause population migration towards the city in countries such as Turkey where a significant part of the population is still in the field of agriculture. The population excluded from the agricultural field in this way may lead to a series of new social and cultural problems in developing countries in areas such as employment, health, education, security, and the value system.
Conclusion and evaluation
It is observed that a great distance has been taken in terms of obtaining more and quality products from the unit area with the improvement studies and modern agricultural practices carried out for years in agricultural and animal production. On the other hand, it is understood that the increase in food production has been blocked and the biological limit has been reached as a result of the modern agricultural activities being applied gradually decreasing the agricultural diversity and the agricultural pests gaining resistance against the pesticides used.
At this point, it is seen that with the biotechnological agricultural activities that have been implemented for the last 20 years, it has become possible to overcome the bottleneck in the increase in the amount of nutrients to a certain extent with genetic engineering processes. However, the understanding that biodiversity will decrease with the widespread use of GMOs shows that the process in product increase will return after a certain period of time. On the other hand, with the production and trade of GMOs gaining a disadvantage against developing countries in unstable market conditions, the agricultural systems of developing countries have become increasingly foreign-dependent and the chance of sustainability has disappeared since the period when agricultural biotechnology was put into practice. shows that the losses will be overshadowed.
As a result, it is inevitable that the agricultural and animal production systems of developing countries will be under serious threat due to the decrease in biodiversity due to the widespread production and use of GMOs in line with the preferences of multinational companies. As a matter of fact, considering that the interaction between ecological, economic, social and cultural processes operates cyclically (Tuna, 2001:214), it is inevitable that the effects occurring in the ecological field will increasingly manifest themselves in the economic, social and cultural fields. This situation, on the other hand, threatens the sustainability of local agricultural and animal production forms, and thus the food security of the world, due to the problems in the social, economic and cultural areas it may cause.
Considering the fact that the main cause of the “food shortage” problem in the world is the socioeconomic inequalities that lead to the uneven distribution of natural resources, it will be seen that biotechnological agricultural and animal production will not be the solution to overcoming the problem. In this context, it turns out that the application of genetic engineering as a solution to the socioeconomic and political dimensions of the world, such as hunger, is a conscious and deliberate approach that aims to keep the basic elements of the issue out of sight within the narrow understanding of “genetic reductionism and determinist”. Therefore, it becomes clear that the real way of overcoming the food shortage is possible by finding tools for solving the imbalances in resource distribution and use.
On the other hand, increasing plant and animal production from genetic resources with biotechnology applications can be beneficial to the extent that the “ecological and socioeconomic” risks of the mentioned products can be kept within “acceptable” limits with the “biosecurity system”. Thus, it will be possible to establish a balance between the “benefit that can be met” and the “ecological and socioeconomic” harms that may arise from modern biotechnology applications and, accordingly, the sustainability of agricultural and animal production systems.
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