Both Monsanto and DuPont produce and market corn and soybeans that have been genetically engineered to withstand weed killers, while producing an insecticidal protein to fight pests without the need for additional chemical sprays.
The key areas of controversy related to genetically modified food are:
- whether detailed labeling should be required by law;
- what is the role and expanse of government regulators and at what level;
- what are the effects of genetically modified crops on health and the environment;
- what is the effect on pesticide resistance
- is the impact of genetically modified crops positive or negative for farmers; and
- what should be the role of genetically modified crops in meeting the needs of a rapidly growing global populace, particularly in emerging market nations where the health and food safety laws are not as stringent as in the United States.
At present, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supports voluntary labeling by food manufacturers.
Greenpeace, the Organic Consumers Association and others support labeling efforts due to their contention that current regulatory efforts are anemic and the food derived from genetically modified organisms may be unsafe, threatening other sources.
While labeling efforts may seem benign, there would be a greatly increased legal liability for companies in the industry if the efforts prevail. It would also facilitate greater regulatory expansion for the other aspects of the role of bioengineering and chemicals in the food sector.
Opponents of more laws and regulations on the industry point out that esteemed scientific institutions such as the British Royal Society, the World Health Organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and others have determined that genetically modified foods on the market are no riskier than conventional foods.
Greater amounts on lobbying should be expected from Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical and others in the future. Monsanto recently hired the former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Blanche Lincoln, as a lobbyist. For the former senator and others employed by Monsanto, DuPont and others, making the Farmer Assurance Provision permanent will obviously be a priority in the next Congress. At the state level, there will be more efforts, some repeats.
What will be new, however, is the higher and higher amounts expended by Monsanto and other to defeat food labeling attempts at all levels of government.
At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.