In the last decade food production has undergone dramatic changes. The introduction of biotechnology and genetic modification has greatly increased crop yields and altered the balance of international agricultural trade. This paper aims to discuss and explore a current global issue involving international trade and its sometimes hazardous environmental impact. Following in the wake of the Mad Cow epidemic in Europe, caused mainly by the use of ground up animal bones in livestock feed, farmers were forced to find a non-animal based protein-rich feed for livestock. Soy meal was found to be a perfect alternative, resulting in a large increase in the demand for soy. Currently, the United States is the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products; more importantly, the largest exporter of soy based products. The overwhelming majority of the United States’ soy based exports are of the genetically modified variety. Both China and the European Union currently prohibit the importation of genetically modified foods, eliminating the United States from a large foreign market. This large, emerging market opportunity is appealing to many countries currently producing non-genetically modified soy. Few countries however, possess the resources and agricultural infrastructure necessary to take advantage of this opportunity.
The world’s second largest exporter of soy based products is Brazil, a country that at present predominantly produces non-genetically modified soy. Brazil has historically committed to producing non-genetically modified soy and has vast amounts of both land and labor to capitalize on foreign markets. In order to satisfy the already large and growing demand for non-genetically modified soy, Brazil would be forced to undertake large, expansive agricultural projects and convert millions of acres of tropical rainforests into land fertile enough for soy production.
The issue at hand is one of short term benefits and long term consequences. Brazil has access and control over the largest and most unique natural resource in the world, the Amazon rainforest. Though the majority of if lies within the borders of Brazil, the Amazon rainforest affects the global climate, impacting countries thousands of miles away. The decision to exploit the Amazon rainforest lies largely on the shoulders of the Brazilian government, but the consequences of these decisions will travel far beyond Brazil’s borders.
Genetically modified foods are the topic of continuous discussion and debate, with numerous pundits on each side of the issue debating their acceptance. The first section of this analysis will concern genetically modified foods and their role in this situation. The second section will discuss Brazil’s current economic condition, their motivations for possibly undertaking such a large effort towards fulfilling the non-genetically modified soy demand, and their possible entrance into the genetically modified soy market. The third and final section of this analysis will explain in detail the potential environmental impact of these actions and conclude with a discussion concerning the idea of economic progression as a driver of environmental destruction.
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