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Activity: genetic engineering in commercial agriculture

One of the main arguments against genetic engineering in agriculture is commercialisation. Genetically engineered crops are developed by large companies and the technology used to create them often patented. This means just a few large companies could monopolise the seed market in future, leading to a reduction in crop diversity. Crops that are ‘owned’ in this way by large companies cannot be adapted to local areas through selective breeding by the farmers that grow them, so genetically engineered crops may not produce their full potential yield because they are not growing in their ideal soil, climate or altitude.

On the other hand, only large organisations have the money, expertise and technology to carry out genetic modification of plants and run all the tests and trials needed to make sure they are safe and will not cause problems in the environment. Genetically engineered crops have already reduced pesticide use and increased yields globally. It can be argued that effectively engineered commercial crops, developed and sold within an acceptable ethical framework so that poorer countries are not disadvantaged, are the only way we will be able to feed the ever-growing human population.

Activity

Prepare a 3 minute speech for a debate with the motion:

"This house believes that it is right and acceptable to genetically modify crops to be used in commercial agriculture."

You may choose to speak

  • for the motion, supporting the idea of commercial agriculture using genetically modified crops, and explaining all the benefits;

  • against the motion, condemning the use of genetic engineering in commercial agriculture, explaining all the problems you can see ahead and emphasising the use of other methods to improve yields.

For either view, begin researching your arguments using the information on this site.