This week, three biotechnology pioneers were awarded the prestigious World Food Prize at an Iowa-based awards ceremony – a win which has naturally drawn criticism from concerned citizens, conscious farmers, and other scientists.
According to the prize citation noted via Voice of America News, genetically modified (GMO) crops have been hailed as the key to solving the world hunger problem. GMO proponents insist these crops will be vital in feeding our growing world population which will reach an estimated nine billion by 2050.
Perhaps these crops will be feeding much of the world if our governments let them, but GMOs are not necessarily the future, even if the World Food Prize scientists believe that they are.
“I really don’t understand the opposition to this technology,” said Mary-Dell Chilton, one of this year’s World Food Prize recipients who works for Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc, to RadioIowa, “It’s a technology that reduces, and in many cases eliminates, the need for some agricultural chemicals.”
In addition to Chilton, Marc Van Montagu of Belgium and Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer Robert Fraley also received the World Food Prize.
While Chilton and other GMO proponents tout the “virtues” of GMOs, especially in regards to the reduction in agricultural chemical use, reports have revealed that such crops do not effectively reduce or eliminate the need for these chemicals. In some cases, GMO crops have increased the need for pesticides and have failed at deterring pest problems. What’s more, GMOs have been linked to a number of environmental impacts like the decline in monarch butterfly populations.
Even if these negative effects are ignored, other scientists feel that GMOs should still not be held up as solutions to the world hunger problem.
“You hear a lot of alarms about whether we can feed the world,” said Timothy Wise, the director of the research and police program in the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University via The Des Moines Registe. “Most of it focuses on technology. But we found there’s plenty of food, it’s just not distributed fairly.”
Wise is probably right as one-third of all food (that is, 1.3 billion tons) is trashed globally – a significant amount to be thrown away when 870 million people go hungry every day.
GMOs seem to be a forced solution to a problem where other solutions exist but are simply not being instituted. Instead of attacking the issue of hunger at its core, we are allowing businesses to come up with ways to alter the end product by giving the illusion that these crops are foolproof in some way. But nature isn’t perfect, and often when we meddle in its dealings, we all lose.
While many are disappointed with this year’s World Food Prize decision, there is still hope in the fight against GMOs as nations like Costa Rica and Mexico are leading the way in GMO bans to protect their rich agricultural heritage and their people. Let’s just hope the U.S. is paying attention and will take the necessary steps in reducing the presence of GMOs in our food supply too.
Worried about GMOs? Discover five easy ways to avoid them at the grocery store right here.
Image source: BASF Plant Science / Wikipedia Commons