How free trade can kickstart a GM food revolution

The first genetically modified food was approved for release in 1984. It was known as the Flavr Savr Tomato and had been engineered to have a longer shelf life by inserting an antisense gene to delay ripening. Despite its failure, GM foods have come a long way over the past 35 years, continually bringing new and more sophisticated benefits. Whether it be their greater nutritional content or medical benefits, it is evident that they are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society. However, following Brexit, technological advancements in GM foods may stall, due to various limits of trade agreements. Nevertheless, it is certainly possible for free market policy reforms to help rectify this complication.

UK International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, has made it clear that he wishes to strike deals with pro-GM foods nations: Brazil, Argentina and the US. In order to continually accelerate the technological progress in developing GM foods, it is imperative that we strike such free-trade agreements. Low tariff barriers caused by such an agreement will help increase the trade of GM foods exponentially while providing a greater investment incentive for firms developing GM foods. Moreover, domestic firms developing GM foods will face competition from abroad, and therefore be incentivised to cut costs and increase efficiency.

Furthermore, monopolies competing at a global level, such as Bayer, a German multinational pharmaceutical company, will be stripped of their market power. A free trade deal would encourage new firms to enter the global market, increasing competition and further incentivising them to innovate. Moreover, by advocating a free-trade agreement, technology can cross over borders more freely, which can effectively help accelerate improvements in technology involved in developing GM foods. In addition, by adopting a free-trade agreement, firms developing GM foods can specialize, allowing them to benefit from economies of scale and lower average costs, which can be crucial due to the high fixed costs typically associated with the development of GM foods.

Unfortunately, in the case of manufacturing a free-trade agreement, it is often much easier said than done. However, if nations are wise enough to notice the vast benefits associated with such an agreement, it would most certainly help stimulate the development of genetically modified foods in the future.

Prerak Goel is the winner of the under 18s category in the ASI's 'Young Writer on Liberty' competition.