You Reap What You Sow: The Case for Banning GMOs in the United States by Elizabeth Bock

Bigger is always better, right? That is the mantra that GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) manufacturers practice and preach. The giant strawberries you are snacking on are the result of genetic manipulation.[1] These alterations allow scientists to create plants with increased freshness, pesticide resistance, drought prevention, and temperature tolerance, to name a few traits. How could something so sweet be secretly so sour? This article will explain why GMOs should be labeled, phased out, and then ultimately banned in the United States.

The Benefits: All That Glitters is Gold(en rice)

Golden rice was created in the 1990s to ensure that the more than one million children who die every year and the complementary 350,000 who go blind from Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) receive proper care.[2] By adding a beta-carotene protein into the rice, researchers Peter Beyer and Ingo Potrykus fortified this grain and distributed it to the countries and people in need of this nutritional supplement. Genetically engineered crops provide easy access to surface-level nutrition, can grow in poor soil conditions, and have longer shelf lives.

Due to their advanced nature, GMO crops are easier for farmers to grow and therefore less costly. They have little need for pesticides, advanced fertilizers, or other costly supplements.[3] According to the Cornell Alliance for Science, a 2014 study found that “GM crops have allowed an average increase in agricultural yield by 22 percent and increased farmers’ profits by 68 percent, with profit margins even larger in developing countries.”[4] In other words, farmers can mass produce these crops to their benefit, especially in the countries that need these products the most. As a result, the produce itself has a lower cost and can outcompete more sustainable practices like organic agriculture.[5]

However, the benefits of GMO crops, in the United States, are not shared with small farms. In fact, GMO crops are only produced and sold by a select few companies.

The Cons: Unfavorable Frankenfood

Economically, GMOs foods at first appear to be a commendable biotechnology model. With an increasing crop yield and lower prices for farmers, what could go wrong? Yet many large biotechnology companies such as Monsanto have patents for their GM seeds, harming local economies and damaging small businesses. In one case study in Canada, a local farmer named Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto for infringement when the corporation’s crops contaminated Schmeisser’s land.[6] This “genetic pollution” can contaminate neighboring non-GMO crops with a simple gust of the wind. Furthermore, the consequences of this cross-pollination with other crops and even wild plants are unknown. Monsanto won the court case and continues to control 34% of the global seed market – the largest portion of any singular company.[7] This legal precedent does not hold companies that contaminate croplands fiscally accountable. Small farmers have no competitive advantage and must resort to more expensive, traditional methods.

Meanwhile, larger corporations are incentivized to start monocropping,[8] or using land for only one type of crop. These monoculture environments lead to decreasing biodiversity in plant species, soil microorganisms, predators, and plant diseases.[9] The fact that only three crops constitute 60% of total plant calories that humans consume (corn, rice, and wheat[10]) combined with monoculture, is a recipe for disaster. If a disease were to break through the GMOs’ engineered defenses, on just a single GMO strand for one of these crops, one-third of the world’s plant supply could be in jeopardy.[11] As is the nature of evolution, over time, pests and diseases will adapt to attack these crops and could potentially become biologically stronger. Already Monsanto has engineered plants that are immune to the European corn borer and the cotton bollworm. Numerous ecologists have raised the alarm since these new plants may confer resistance to a natural insecticide used by organic farmers among crop pests.[12]

While GMOs at the moment might seem like a sustainable market with increasing farmer yields and feeding underprivileged populations, in actuality, the lack of patent diversity, dearth of biodiversity, and threat of pest evolution menace the United States’ current food supply.

Popping the Policy Question

GMOs are often justified as the means to feed the hungry mouths that accompany a population boom. With around 7.8 billion people on Earth and growing, there is an ever-increasing demand for food. But America has enough food already – it just isn’t distributed properly. Every year, the United States wastes about 133 billion pounds of food, around 31% of the overall food supply.[1] Meanwhile, in America, there are around 23 million people living in food deserts, 10+ miles from any market.[2] Our country’s solution to hunger is not GMOs, it’s proper food distribution.

Labelling, phasing out and then banning GMOs in the United States right now is the only certain way to protect our country’s food supply. America should follow and expand upon the United Kingdom’s “restrictive approach” towards GMOs.[3]


Step One: The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) mandates that GMO products are clearly labelled. Similar to the packaging on cigarettes displaying blackened lungs and disfigured bodies, GMO products should show decimated landscapes and display information for the consumer. This will help sway public opinion and ease the transition to the next phase.


Step Two: Using subsidies to transition away from GMOs. America should heavily subsidize local agriculture to incentivize purchasing organic products over GM products. This financial package will expand the sustainable agriculture economy to envelop the present massive GM agronomy. This switch will prevent the economy from completely losing the agricultural industry and the jobs it accompanies.


Step Three: Banning GMOs. This step will be the final legal restriction set into place to prevent the United States from commercially producing and exporting these products. Not only will these measures help protect America’s farmland, but they will be essential to reforming the United States’ food distribution system and minimizing the number of people abandoned in food deserts.

If the United States follows this three step plan, it can protect against the economic, environmental, and evolutionary threats that genetically modified foods pose our country.


[1] “America’s Food Waste Problem.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 19 June 2017, accessed 18 June, 2020,

[2] “Food Deserts in the United States: Move For Hunger.” Food Deserts in the United States, Move For Hunger, accessed 18 June, 2020,

[3] Feikert-Ahalt, Clare. Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms: England and Wales, Law Library of Congress, 1 Mar. 2014, accessed 18 June, 2020,


[1] Caseys, Celine. “Why Are Strawberries so Big? The Genetics behind ‘up-Sizing’ Fruits and Vegetables.” Genetic Literacy Project, 29 Nov. 2018, accessed 18 June, 2020,

[2] Nash/Zurich, J. Madeleine. “This Rice Could Save a Million Kids a Year.” Time, Time Inc., 31 July 2000, accessed 18 June, 2020,,9171,997586,00.html.

[3] Gunderson, Craig. “Cheap Food? Thank GMOs.” Genetic Literacy Project, 12 Jan. 2018, accessed 7 June, 2020,

[4] Norero, Daniel. “GMO Crops Have Been Increasing Yield for 20 Years, with More Progress Ahead.” Alliance for Science, Cornell University, 23 February 2018,  accessed 7 June, 2020,,even%20larger%20in%20developing%20countries.

[5] Zimmerman, Naomi. “So, Is Organic Food Actually More Sustainable?” State of the Planet, Earth Institute of Columbia University, 5 Feb. 2020,  accessed 7 June, 2020,,biodiversity%20compared%20to%20conventional%20farming.

[6] FreakinCool, et al. “The Patent Landscape of Genetically Modified Organisms.” Science in the News, 11 Aug. 2015, accessed 7 June, 2020,

[7] “Does Big Ag Dominate Crop Research and the Global Seed Supply, Controlling the World Food Market?” GMO FAQs, accessed 7 June, 2020,

[8] “Monocropping.”,, accessed 18 June, 2020,

[9] Bavec, Franc, and Martina Bavek. “Comparison of Negative Effects of Monoculture and Positive Effects of Crop Rotation, Alternative Crops and Intercrops on Biodiversity Parameters.” Research Gate, Apr. 2015, accessed 7 June, 2020,

[10] “Crops.” The Environmental Literacy Council,

[11]Hammer, Mark. “The Economics of Genetically Modified Foods.” Markrp, Stanford University, accessed 7 June, 2020,

[12] Nash/Zurich, J. Madeleine. “This Rice Could Save a Million Kids a Year.” Time, Time Inc., 31 July 2000, accessed 18 June, 2020,,9171,997586,00.html.

3 thoughts on “You Reap What You Sow: The Case for Banning GMOs in the United States by Elizabeth Bock

  1. I think you highlight some big problems here. That said, I disagree with the conclusion that we should ban GMOs. There are plenty of things that create problems in America but we don’t ban outright. I would agree that it’s a problem that these huge corporations can contaminate local farms and then sue them, but does that mean we have to ban GMOs? Or could we just rethink the policies that led to that situation? I will admit I don’t know much about GMOs, but it seems to me that they are absolutely necessary, contrary to what you said. After all, bananas don’t naturally occur in their seedless form that we eat them today. If you look at pictures of naturally occurring corn, it’s clear that those plants would never have been able to sustain humanity as it is today. I know breeding plants isn’t necessarily GMOs, but my point is we’ve been modifying food in positive ways for a long time. Sure, now that we can genetically modify food in a lab that creates the possibility for abuse, I just don’t buy that that means we should ban them. Can’t we just figure out a better to employ them?

    California produces a significant portion of the nation’s food. California also recently went it’s most severe drought in 400 years. Climate change makes droughts even more likely. Would it not be of great benefit to be able to produce crops that can thrive in a drought? There are issues like this occurring all across the nation. It seems like banning GMOs isn’t the only solution to the problems you bring up. Corporations in every market abuse their power and we don’t just ban products like what they’re selling, especially if the future of our food supply may well depend on them.

  2. I had heard of some of the negative impacts of GMOs on the diversity of crops, but generally when learning about the development of these crops I was taught to look at the social impact of decreasing food insecurity around the world, exactly like you pointed out. I think it is so important to actually look at the reality of the distribution of wealth, benefits, and access to these technologies because often in our capitalist market, we get it wrong in the name of innovation. I wonder if there are more market-based policy approaches to decreasing the abusive uses of GMOs under companies like Monsanto (although with court precedents set, this may be difficult). I do believe GMOs have the potential to help address food insecurity and nutrient shortages around the world but they may be less suited to solve the issue of American food deserts and the chronic circulation of processed foods and subsequent health problems in lower-income, often minority areas. I believe stronger subsidies for diversified farming and support for the local circulation of farmed goods will help solve the American food problems. GMOs may belong elsewhere in the world where not so much food is being wasted and where the hunger crisis will require a multifaceted approach.

  3. I’ve definitely read more arguments in support of GMOs than against GMOs, and being that the position you took is hard to justify in some aspects, I commend you for doing such a great job defending an outright ban of GMOs. I agree that Monsanto’s control within the global seed industry is definitely bad for small farmers, but I think that is something that should be addressed on its own rather than banning GMOs entirely. Your proposal of using subsidies against GMOs could work in the U.S. to counter Monsanto’s power, but I don’t think complete GMO elimination is a viable option. Crop evolution has been a powerful tool for thousands of years, as seen through images of what carrots, bananas, and corn looked like thousands of years ago. Now that crop evolution has taken more of a scientific turn, it could be argued that it’s just the modern way of influencing crop evolution must faster. While there are a few potential downsides such as with the contamination you mentioned, might it be better to monitor and potentially tax individual farms or corporations that contribute to this contamination rather than banning the GMO crops? Also, you make a good point that GMOs aren’t necessary to meet global food demands, but they are still important in other ways, such as with stabilizing the amount of crops harvested each year as GMOs can better survive unideal conditions.

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