Daniel S. Menz

Daniel is a sophomore at Harvard studying Germanic Literature and Languages, Government, and Environmental Science and Public Policy. He is originally from Cape Elizabeth, Maine and never lets his friends and classmates forget about his affiliation with the region. His favorite activities include running, cross-country skiing, and playing Ultimate Frisbee. He is a proud member of the Harvard Model UN community, chairing committees in Boston, Beijing, Hyderabad, and Lima, which is one of his favorite cities in the world. Daniel is a returning director to the seventh session of HNMUN-LA, having served as last year's chair of UNEP at the sixth session of the conference. HNMUN-LA was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of his life, and he looks forward to working diligently to ensure the educational, social, and cultural traditions of this conference remain central to its mission of enhancing global collaboration as the conference's director of UNEP and its Under-Secretary-General for Operations.

 

topic: genetically modified organisms

Genetic Engineering is one of the most fascinating and contentious topic areas that could be run within UNEP. The genetic modified seeds have proven to be a topic that is nuanced from a debating perspective. The issue at hand, more specifically the engineering of seeds through the insertion of extraneous DNA to enhance or add preferred traits, has caused controversy in the realms of science and ethics, politics and economics, and civil society and morality.

The scientific community has been vocal about the benefits of this technology, and many studies and tests in a variety of countries have championed its safety. The reaction from civil society and many governments, however, has not been as welcoming. In the EU, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are virtually non-existent, relative to other regions. Strict labelling laws and outright bans in other nations illustrate a political, and perhaps cultural, opposition to such technology. In the United States, a comparatively lax regulatory regime has allowed the biotechnology industries to have firm roots and market control over the agricultural sector through the production and distribution of genetically modified seeds and an array of pesticides. Activists and leaders at home and abroad have made the extended the debate surrounding GMOs beyond the scientific; the political, the economic, and the ethical aspects of using GMOs have also become major points of contention. The GMO question is a public health concern for many people, but the political and cultural inhibitions to its full-scale implementation also demonstrate the nuanced substance of this controversy.

Delegates participating in this committee should come prepared with the knowledge of varying scientific arguments surrounding genetic engineering, a recognition of different regions’ approaches to regulating it and the economic situation of the biotechnology market, and an understanding of how actors within the government, civil society, and the public sector interact with one another in this context. Questions to be addressed are as wide-ranging as the topic area itself.  What explains the differences in acceptance of GMOs across different nations? In an interconnected political and economic sphere, what is the role of the international community in laying down guidelines on the use and regulation of GMOs? How can the promise of many scientists be reconciled with the subsequent reaction of a robust civil society that is opposed to the technology, no matter what these scientists say? How can the issues of genetic heritage and cross-pollination be dealt with, and what is there to be said about the economic arrangement of the biotechnology industry?