Scrutinizing the Impact of GMOs Through the Prism of Human Rights

8 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2014

See all articles by Rashmi Patowary

Rashmi Patowary

National Law University and Judicial Academy Assam (NLUJAA)

Date Written: September 29, 2014


Necessity is the mother of invention. The booming population triggered the need to carve out efficient ways to feed the growing millions. Biotechnology answered this need with the creation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). They are organisms whose genetic make up has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Such alterations enabled to create agricultural products (both plants and animals) that were resistant to diseases, harsh seasonal changes and had better nutritional qualities. Thus, it improved food both in quantitative and qualitative terms. But under the garb of these numerous benefits, one should not ignore the potential risks, which these organisms pose to the human health and the environment at large. GMOs provide a risk to human health as it can cause allergic reactions. It also causes significant loss to biodiversity and dismantle the sensitive balance of a food chain.

Human Rights, the inalienable rights bestowed to mankind, preserving its dignity and sanctity faces dilemma in the midst of the benefits and risks of GMOs. The human right to ‘food’ and the human right to ‘health’ are quite relevant in this context. For instance, the benefit of condensing better nutritional qualities in food through the creation of GMOs apparently seems to protect the right to food. But, taking note of the possible threats of allergic reactions (the nature and gravity of which, is not known) and loss to biodiversity, may pose a long-term hidden challenge to the human right to health. Furthermore, human beings are an entity of the ever-changing and mysterious nature. The health and strength of our lives are connected to that of the earth. Thus, a loss of biodiversity and disruption of the sensitive food chain will also have repercussions on our right to food as well. The triggering of genetic mutation will also have effects upon other living organisms, which challenges the greater cohesion inherent in nature. This paper makes a humble attempt to study and analyze subtle but pertinent observations.

The Cartegena Protocol is the first and main international legal instrument regarding biosafety. It broadly covers protection of biodiversity and to regulate the manufacture, import and export of GMO based food products. It emphasis upon the concept of precautionary principle and introduces ‘labeling’ of food containing GMOs. The paper attempts to search solutions and evaluate the efficacy of solutions in existence in the International Legal Framework. The paper will also briefly evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of domestic legislations of India with regard to biosafety. It will try to analyze and evaluate the scales of justice in the light of earth jurisprudence.

Keywords: Earth Jurisprudence; Food; Genetically Modified Organisms; Health; Human Rights.

Suggested Citation

Patowary, Rashmi, Scrutinizing the Impact of GMOs Through the Prism of Human Rights (September 29, 2014). OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 07, No. 06, pp. 79-86, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Rashmi Patowary (Contact Author)

National Law University and Judicial Academy Assam (NLUJAA) ( email )

NEJOTI Building, B.K. Kakati Road
Bholanath Mandir Path, Ulubari
Guwahati, Assam 781007

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