I have previously discussed my position on the issue of genetically engineered foods and genetic engineering on this site. Readers of this blog as well as people who know me personally are familiar with my position, but apparently it is not enough for me to merely state it. I have been asked to defend various parts of my position and will do so here.
Simply put my position on GMOs is this:
1. No one should be allowed to patent a genetically engineered life form.
2. Governments should stay out of the business of subsidizing the growing, selling, distribution or development of GMO foods. They should be neutral to this technology.
3. If a someone sells GMO foods under false pretenses, they owes damages, as this is fraud.
4. Governments should stay out the business of attempting to directly influence the decisions of other governments concerning these products. (Leading by example does not count here).
5. If your GMO seeds, or crops or livestock in anyway contaminate or violate the property of anyone else you are liable for damage, with no exception.
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.
In defense of my first point, all I can say is that patents are simply government granted monopolies. I am of the position that we should not have any such monopolies as I elaborated here, but even for people who reject this position, I would still think the world’s food supply should be the last place we want government granted monopolies. The GMO foods business is largely dominated by a small number of companies, and this concentration of government granted privilege will only get worse if we continue in this direction. People should be free to peacefully use the information and finding of science as they see fit. This should be especially true of research that is government funded. I believe all research findings should be public domain, but this is especially true of research that is publicly funded.
This leads to my second point. I find government involvement in research and development as well as government promotion of some products over others to be problematic in numerous ways. To start government research is by definition tax payer funded: not all tax-payers support this research, why should they have to pay for research they don’t support? After all, forcing people to pay for it only legitimizes the case of the anti-GMO types that the government and big business are colluding to impose this form of technology on people who neither wanted it nor consented to it.
Furthermore, governments are known for being corrupt and generally in bed with big business. Government R&D strikes me as highly likely to favor established firms with large budgets over smaller competitors and would be competitors. Ultimately, I would rather technology emerge as a response to real demand expressed by the consumer. In a market, in which all parties are fully liable for their actions, fraud is not allowed and there are no arbitrary entry barrier or government favoritism, competitive pressures will push toward the development of the most efficient combination of technologies and techniques to meet the actual demands of consumers. Government R&D distorts this process.
My third point to me seems straight forward, but I have heard it objected to by people who do not like the decisions many of the consumers make. Some hate the idea that consumers may make purchasing decisions that are misguided or wrong and labeling measures and even prohibitions against fraud, will enable consumers to make the “wrong choices”. An example that was brought up is the gluten-free craze, which apparently started when people who have no biological need to avoid gluten started buying large quantities of gluten free foods at high prices.
To this I would respond that my stance is simply a consequence of the illegality of outright fraud. If people do not want gluten or GMO’s or whatever, they should be allowed to buy products without them (if the market produces such products) and they shouldn’t have to be lied to or forcibly kept in the dark. This is true even if their reasoning for not wanting these products is misguided or outright wrong. Ultimately it should be up to the consumers to decide what their preferences are. If you think the consumers are making misguided, wrong or stupid decisions, the solution is not to forbid labeling, but to engage in a little outreach and making your opinions known through the free exchange of information.
For my fourth point is largely a consequence of my position of foreign intervention in general, but it largely follows from the rest of my points here. I do not see much further need to elaborate on it. My Fifth point however received bigger objections that I wish to answer.
Mostly the objections consisted of how damages should be determined and what if the contamination actually improves one’s product. For the question of damages, I would say That probably depends on the situation. For example, if A is growing “non-GMO-corn” and has buyer lined-up for it, but B’s “GMO-corn” gets into A’s causing his buyer to nullify the contract, I think B should have to cover the cost A’s buyer would have paid. I am not a legal scholar but I suspect there is sufficient for legal precedent handling more ambiguous cases. Also note, I would hold the same position if the roles were reversed. If A’s “non-GMO” corn somehow compromised B’s crop, A would owe B. This would even be the case if no crops in this scenario were Gmo, or if both were.
In the even the contamination in someway benefits the neighbor, he or she should not be forced to pursue damages, but he still should not be able to lie and sell his crop as if no contamination occurred (as I mentioned above). The point is, if your activities interfere with someone justly acquired possessions or body in a way they did not consent to, you should be held responsible, which I think more than sufficiently accounts for my sixth point.