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Genetically-Modified Organisms: Economic Freedom and Social Stability

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2018 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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In this paper, I employ a sociological conceptual framework with a qualitative methodology to interpret the case of the Genetically-Modified Organisms to inform discussions regarding economic freedom and social stability in our society. This research topic is important because it is controversial and needs further studying. The sociological conceptual framework focuses on conflict theory and structural-functionalist theory. Data was gathered from online article databases and Google searches that introduces the pros and cons of GMOs. I conclude that conflict theorist perspectives are the more resourceful way to examine and explain the data used for GMOs when associated with personal and social effects.

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First, a brief discussion of the theory and methods is provided. Then, the case study of Genetically Modified Organisms is presented in these sections: history, pros and cons, advocates, and opponents are discussed. Next, the events of the case are analyzed using sociological frames and concepts focusing on structural functionalist and conflict perspectives surrounding GMOs. Finally, some conclusions are presented regarding how this research informs discussions on the study of balancing the study of economic freedom and the social stability in our society. 


Structural functionalism and conflict theory are the two perspectives used when analyzing GMOs. Structural functionalism is, “a theoretical approach that sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of individuals that make up that society” (Lumen 2017:1). When using structural functionalism science is the reason for resolving issues within our society. According to Crossman (2018:1), “Conflict theory states that tensions and conflicts arise when resources, status, and power are unevenly distributed between groups in society and that these conflicts become the engine for social change”. Conflict theory causes tension between social classes that lead to unequal inequality.

Qualitative research and online databases are the frameworks used to analysis GMOs. Qualitative research “is a process of naturalistic inquiry that seeks an in-depth understanding of social phenomena within their natural setting” (Jones 2011:1). Throughout the case study, I provided information about GMOs that includes the social information of this particular study. In the Google search engine, I selected articles that included the pros and cons of GMOs, and cases study documents. After, finding the articles that best fits the case study I printed the article out and begin color coding them. I separated the articles into four categories that introduce the history, pros and cons, advocates, and opponents of GMOs.


History of GMOs

Genetically Modified Organisms were developed by two scientists “who established a method to cut out a gene from one organism and paste it into another” (Rangel 2015:2). GMOs derived from bacteria, viruses, insects, and animals. The GMO crops that are used in the agriculture fields are corn, soy, alfalfa, and cotton. There have been constant debates about GMOs because it has a huge impact on our health and environment. According to Bushak (2015:1), “the conflict over their safety and efficacy shouldn’t be about whether they’re safe for humans to consume, but rather how they will impact long-term, sustainable agricultural efforts”. GMOs are a highly debatable topic because there are individuals in our society who consider GMOs as “biofortified” crops that do not possess vitamins and minerals naturally.

Those who do not support GMOs express that health and environmental concerns are the reasons why they are afraid to test Genetically Modified Organisms. Non-supporters feel that there is not enough information to verify that GMOs are harmless. Individuals who support GMOs believe that these products do not cause harm to humans or our environment because of the test that has been running by biotechnological companies. To get our society to support GMOs companies must release information that will give consumers a clear insight into these products.

Advocates of Genetically Modified Organisms

    Advocates who support GMO’s sense that these products are not harmful to humans or the environment and see these crops as a healthier way to help our society as a whole. Bill Gates does not only view genetically modified food as “perfectly healthy but that he sees them, as a promising tool in a wider array of resources in the fight to reduce world hunger” (Brodwin 2018:1). Advocates express that fighting to reduce starvation and malnutrition are the main reasons for Genetically Modified Organisms. Evidence proves that GMOs are safe to eat because they benefit the environment and agriculture becomes more justifiable.


Opponents of GMOs

There are a lot of controversial topics on GMOs because consumers are not able to gain information on foods that they are in taking. When situations like this become public it is hard for individuals to support because they do not have the proper information to justify their decision. GMO advocates feel that these foods are completely harmless to individuals, and the environment but fail to provide information to support their decisions. “Negative representations of GMOs are widespread and compelling because they are intuitively appealing” (Blancke 2015:1). For example, Blancke (2017:2) explains that “golden rice- rice genetically engineered to express beta-carotene, which is broken down by the body into Vitamin A- has been the biotechnology industry’s poster child for over two decades… But it has not been introduced”.


     In this section, I discuss the sociological framework of structural functionalism and conflict theory. The structural-functionalist theory would help the fight to reduce world hunger and will remain to keep the environment and consumers safe. Also, structural functionalism will help the scientific side of GMOs could help our society. According to Herbert Spencer, the progression of science can benefit our society if we adjust or expire survival of the fittest. Talcott Parsons believes that individuals have roles in our society and every individual should perform appropriately to maintain social stability. If we continue to play our roles in our society correspondingly we can help our society gain stability. Durkheim discusses the division of labor as the assignment of different parts of a manufacturing process or task to different people in order to improve efficiency. Our society should allow science to sponsor GMOs so that we can exclude the harmful products that are destroying humans and our environment.

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     Conflict theory would say that structural functionalism is a disadvantage to our society when dealing with GMOs. Karl Marx will consider GMOs to be immoral to our society. The Power of Elite according to C. Wright Mills will consider GMOs to be unfair to our society. Control over our society from the backstage will determine how the information will be given to individuals about GMOs. The Elites are considered to be the higher ruling classes that can withhold information and only give out certain information to the public. Elites control our society without us even knowing because influence decisions that affect us as a whole. When opponents refuse to support GMOs this is why because the information that is provided does not give a clear understanding or provide enough research. This causes us to form inequality amongst each other because unfair power higher authorities have over our society.  In Marx’s Communist Manifesto, he explains the differences between bourgeois and proletariat and illustrates that “the proletariat is the working class, including farmers and low-skilled factory workers. They do not own any means of production, and the bourgeoisie is the capitalist class, the wealthy, who own most of the means of production”. Conflict perspectives of GMOs would feel that companies do not have any interest in supporting Genetically Modified Organisms but only supporting these issues because it is a controversial topic.


    I feel that structural functionalism support GMO advocates and conflict theory supports GMO opponents. This case study has taught me that there is not enough information to help us understand how GMOs can protect us as humans and also protect our environment. The government and other authorities are withholding information we need to succeed and become a better society. We are failing because we are believing The Power of Elites instead of doing further research on our own.  Biotechnology companies fail to realize that providing our society with little information on GMOs are decreasing our chances to give GMOs a chance.

    Consumers are not given the proper labeling information to become knowledgeable about GMOs. We have to stop allowing upper classes to make decisions for our society. Our personal freedoms are taken away from us because we fail to stand up to higher authorities. We allow them to make decisions for us and in all actuality, they are destroying our society. 


  • Blancke, Stefaan. 2015. Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe. Scientific American. Retrieved November 14, 2018 (Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe).
  • Brodwin, E. (2018). Bill Gates calls GMOs ‘perfectly healthy’ — and scientists say he’s right. [online] Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-supports-gmos-reddit-ama-2018-2 [Accessed 15 Nov. 2018].
  • Bushak, L. (2018). A Brief History Of Genetically Modified Organisms: From Prehistoric Breeding To Modern Biotechnology. [online] Medical Daily. Available at: https://www.medicaldaily.com/brief-history-genetically-modified-organisms-prehistoric-breeding-modern-344076 [Accessed 15 Nov. 2018].
  • Crossman, Ashley. 2016. “Conflict Theory; A Brief Overview” edited by N. L. Cole. About.com Education. November 5, 2016.
  • Durkheim, Emile. 1997. Division of Labor in Society. Trans. W.D. Halls. New York: Free Press.
  • Freese, Bill. 2017. Center for Food Safety To FDA: Tell the Truth About GMOs, Avoid Myths Put Out by Biotech Industry and Its Followers. Washington, D.C.
  • Lumen, Learning.2017. “Reading: Structural-Functional Theory.” Reading: Structural-Functional Theory. July 8, 2017.
  • Marx, Karl. 1969. Manifesto Communist. Moscow.
  • Mills, C. Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Morse, J. (2018). Qualitative Research Journal – | University of Utah. [online] Nursing.utah.edu. Available at: https://nursing.utah.edu/research/qualitative-research/journal.php [Accessed 15 Nov. 2018].
  • Parsons, Talcott. 2013. The Social System. London: Routledge.
  • Rangel, Gabriel. 2015. From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History Of GMO Technology. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University.
  • Spencer, Herbert. 1895. The Principles of Sociology. Vol. 6. New York: Appleton.



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