Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Hans Peter Schmitz
Citizenship and Public Affairs
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Eastern European Studies | International and Area Studies | Other International and Area Studies
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have quickly become an abundant source of food, especially in the United States. But as GMOs have grown, Europeans have raised major concerns over health and environment issues posed by GMOs. In 1998 the European Union imposed a moratorium restricting the approval of any new GMOs in Europe. But the United States saw this as a block to free and fair trade and has taken a case up with the World Trade Organization to resolve the matter. The final decision is past due, but the EU has already lifted the moratorium. Instead, it has imposed rules that will help regulate and control the spread of GMOs within its borders.
This research project is an effort to explain the wide gap in opinions between Americans and Europeans. The methodology includes a brief background on GMOs followed by the principle arguments for and against them. The question posed by this project is why opinions differ over GMOs in the United States and Europe. The thesis is a combined analysis of agricultural history, food crises, and the role of party systems in both the United States and within the European Union. The majority of evidence was found by consulting various government sources, such as EU-published surveys, or FDA-published laws regarding the regulations of foods containing GMOs in the United States. A minimum of information was taken from activist groups or non-government organizations in an attempt to remain objective, as these groups are known to use data to affect opinions in a certain direction.
The main findings are that although the United States and Europe are very similar on many levels, their respective histories and political structures offer great differences. While agriculture in the United States progressed smoothly throughout its history, Europeans have been plagued with many crises that have developed a lack of trust in food security, such as mad cow disease, and the current concern over avian influenza. Europe also has the political structure to allow discussion of GMOs within the EU government due to its multi-party system, including a Green Party that focuses much of its agenda to issues regarding GMOs. The United States legislature, on the other hand, is subject to the agendas of its two main political parties where GMOs do not receive attention. In order to interpret the data and to formulate conclusions, common theories of international relations were used, including realism, liberalism, and Marxism.
What makes this issue so important is that it is a dispute between two very close political allies. The United States and Europe have so much in common both politically and culturally, and yet the issue of GMOs remains divisive. This case provides much support for the liberal theory because rather than going to war with one another, as many conflicts have been resolved throughout history, the two regions sought out a neutral third party to provide a solution.
Delude, Sarah A., "The Food Fight between the United States and Europe: Why GMOs Divide the West" (2006). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 654.
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