I have often felt a bit torn on the whole Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) debate. It seems on one side there are those who are so frightened by possibility of something going, wrong no matter how remote, that they are unwilling to accept the potential of this technology, while on the other side there are people who are so excited about it that they seem to that they think GMOs should dominate the whole food supply and that the government should help subsidize their development and proliferation.
I tend to be a little weary of the possibility of new agricultural technology serving to further concentrate control of the worlds food supply in the hands of Monsanto and a few other enormous corporations, which I do think is unfortunate side effect of the first green revolution that many are willing to overlook. I also tend to like knowing what it is I am eating and having options when it comes to this. Above all I really dislike the notion that a crop people rely on for food could be patented and monopolized by some big bureaucratic corporation.
On the other hand, I recognize genetic engineering has arrived and that it actually has potential to help feed more people, make it easy to farm with less environmental impact, and make producing food easier. I think it is best done if this we put this technology in the hands of ordinary people. So here is my proposal for sensible GMO policy, I think it is one that most liberals, libertarians and many people elsewhere in the spectrum can agree on.
1. No one should be allowed to patent a genetically engineered life form. I tend to oppose patenting in general, but here it is especially important, since patents are nothing but government granted monopolies and the last place we need government granted monopolies is the global food supply.
2. Governments should stay out of the business of subsidizing the growing, selling, distribution or development of GMO foods. If people want these products, they will make their preferences known through their purchasing decisions. We need an agricultural system that reflects the preferences of the buying public rather that of the government and its cronies in big agribusiness.
3. Selling GMO foods under false pretenses should be viewed as fraud by the legal system. This will empower buyers to demand an full information about the products they buy. Robust enforcement of this will encourage disclosure from sellers.
4. Governments should stay out of the decisions of other governments concerning these foods. A government that is involved in forcing GMO foods on a foreign populations or preventing a foreign population from obtaining them is more than overstepping its boundaries.
5. If your GMO seeds, crops or livestock in anyway contaminate or violate the person or property of anyone else you are liable for any damage done, with no exceptions. A strict, robust adherence to this policy will keep contamination in check, and provide a strong incentive to anyone experimenting with, or growing these life forms to keep it on his own property.
6. If you’re GMO foods are responsible for compromises to the health, life or well being of another individual in anyway shape or form, you should be held fully liable for all damaged caused. I’m talking no limits on liability for anyone whose decisions, led to these damages. This will provide a strong incentive to anyone working with these to keep them safe, at the risk of their own financial well being.
These are the basic policies that any free market legal system should have not only towards genetically modified foods, but towards food production in general. I suspect that the current legal system is largely biased in favor whoever has the most money, and I acknowledge this as a problem, but it seems to me robust enforcement of these proposals is still the best approach.