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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.

Across the globe, food is a part of cultural identity and societal life, and has religious significance to people. Therefore, any technological modification resulting from the science of biotechnology, including changes to the genetic basis of crops or animals used for food, may be met with social resistance. In many countries, people’s interaction with nature, often correlated with religious perspectives, causes social and ethical resistance to modifications that interfere with genes. Whereas biotechnology does help achieve the avowed objective of food security and tide over food crises in many a country, the fact remains that still the reasons behind strong opposition and sentiments about GM foods are much more complex, unclear and variable in different regions of the world.

While in developed countries and even advanced developing countries, surveys indicate that lack of information is not the primary reason for opposition to GM crops there. The public is not for or against GMOs per se — people discuss arguments both for and against GMOs, and are aware of contradictions within these arguments. Also, people do not demand zero risk. They are quite aware that their lives are full of risks that need to be balanced against each other and against the potential benefits. A key finding is that people do not react so much to genetic modification as a specific technology, but rather to the context in which GMOs are developed and the purported benefits they are to produce.

However in less developed countries and developing countries, lack of knowledge and awareness plays a significant role in whipping up the passion and sentiments against the so called bogey of GM crops and its imaginary or otherwise ill effects for the society as a while. Irony is that most of the arguments raised against the GM crops are either shallow or far away from reality and hide the big picture. Political overtones and interests assume far greater importance rather than a conscious attempt to give a clear and concise picture of reality.

One major point of arguments against GM crops is their being unnatural and artificial. However the same argument was also raised at the time of introduction of pesticides and other weed eliminating elements for protection of crops.

The opposition to GM crops and foods has as much to do with social and political values as with concerns about health and safety. Consumers’ growing awareness of their rights and farmers’ increasing fear of dependence on multinational companies are symptoms of a deeper concern about values and priorities, the type of environment people want, the role of biodiversity, tolerance of risk and the price that people are prepared to pay for regulation. Some people are concerned about the level of control exercised by a few chemical companies on seed markets. GMOs are emblematic of the powerful economic fears that globalization inspires. In certain regions, hostility to GMOs is symbolic of a broader opposition to the encroachment of market forces. These are perceived to be creating a world in which money rules with little consideration for historical traditions, cultural identities and social needs.

The potential risk of outcrossing and contamination by dispersed material from GM plants can pose problems for organic farming. Dispersal of materials from GM crops (e.g. seeds) can occur over wide distances, depending on the plant characteristics and climatic conditions.

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