Thursday, November 17, 2011

Genetically Modified Foods

First article of the Universal Declaration of ...Image via Wikipedia

The democratic principles of freedom of speech, individualism, personal liberty, and equality have been shown to alleviate human suffering if effectively implemented with checks and balances and accountability in mind. In recent years, mainly in undemocratic countries where human life is given little value by top echelons of the state, the level of hunger that has been pervading through society has been mind boggling for philanthropists and donor nations alike. Shortage of rains resulting from changes in weather patterns, civil disobedience, protracted wars, and malfeasance by corrupt government officials have been tremendously affecting the living conditions of millions where resources are kept under lock and key by government officials wielding considerable power. In Mill’s utilitarianism, one is expected to assess individuals, institutions, and action "…by how well they promote human (or perhaps sentient) happiness” (Mill, 1860).

While hunger and general deprivation loom in a world grappling with food shortages, many countries in the third world feel oblivious to accepting humanitarian donations in the form of Genetically Modified Foods (GM Foods) from industrialized nations for fear of contamination or sudden death that could come with relief aid whose contents are unknown to them. Known for high crop yields, the Rockefeller Foundation funded the first Green Revolution in India and China in the 60s. Genetically engineered to resist drought and pests, GM crops have been found to be the correct answer to the looming food crisis in many impoverished nations scattered mainly in the Global South. African leaders who care little about the welfare of their people usually oppose the distribution of GM Foods for reasons best known to them. As reported by the GlobalPost (August 11, 2011), Levy Mwanawasa, then President of Zambia had this to say: “Just because people are hungry in Zambia, it does not mean we have to feed them with potentially dangerous food”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adapted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN, 1948) states: (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. The refusal by African leaders to allow African farmers to plant GM foods is contrary to the universally accepted Article 17 that is contained in the UNDHR.

The most recent food crisis that resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of millions happened in the Horn Africa. Nations mostly affected by the 2011 devastating drought that vigorously ripped through vast tracts of land included Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya with Somalia being the most affected due to its statelessness. Many aid-dependent nations cite health concerns as the cause not to allow GM foods distribution. With the exception of the South African government that has given its citizen farmers the go-ahead on GM crops production, many countries in the developing world have yet to remove restrictions on GM food or feed food production (Paarlberg, 2002). The nations of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique eventually allowed the distribution of GM seeds only after ensuring the seeds have been milled for fear of cross-breeding with local crops. However, in July of this year, Kenya became the fourth country in the African continent to allow importation of GM foods. The peculiar precautions sounded by Asian, African and Middle Eastern leaders concerning GM Foods are geared toward biological safety.

References

Brink, D. (2007). Mill’s moral and political philosophy. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2010 ed.). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill-moral-political/

Karimjee, M. (August 11, 2011). Genetically Modified Foods and Famine. Retrieved from http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/global-pulse/GM-foods-famine-Africa

The United Nations (1948). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

Paarlberg, R. L. (2002). The real threat to GM crops in poor countries: consumer and policy resistance to GM foods in rich countries. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919202000143
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