GMO bans hurt research and humanity
Every year, 3.1 million children under the age of 5 die as a result of malnutrition. 100 million more suffer from being underweight.
We all agree that world hunger is tragic, however, we are divided about the easiest way to solve the problem: genetically modified organisms.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genomes have been engineered in order to increase the production of desired biological products.
On average, genetically modified crops have been found to increase yield by 22 percent, reduce pesticide usage by 37 percent and increase farmer profits by 68 percent. In poorer areas, the effect is even higher.
In terms of economics, the solution is a lot simpler; as the supply increases, the price drops, allowing poorer populations to purchase the food they need to survive.
So what’s the problem with countries making the choice to ban technology they deem unsafe?
The answer is research.
Restriction of genetically modified crops leads to a setback in future funding for scientific research in the field. Recently, Scotland imposed a blanket ban on growing genetically modified crops might leave Scotland without access to agricultural innovations and threaten the country’s contributions to scientific research.
Beyond Scotland, these bans on genetically modified crops can negatively affect research in other sectors of the GMO market.
“Bans on (genetically modified) crops can lead to seriously hurting research into using modified bacteria to clean up oil spills,” petroleum engineering sophomore Anthony Nowak said.
“It can end up causing us to not have the tools to handle certain problems that can happen in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry.”
Perhaps a more harmful side effect to bans is the stigma it reinforces about GMO technology. Anti-GMO activists employ scare tactics with alarming headlines designed to make the average person afraid of something he or she might not entirely understand.
In developed countries, the effect is relatively minor, but in the poorest of countries, the effect is more severe.
In 2012, after a 12 year wait, scientists were able to plant a genetically modified strain of rice in Southeast Asia, which was cost effective, easy to cultivate and packed with vitamin A. During this 12 year wait, eight million children died as a result of a Vitamin A deficiency with another 250,000 going permanently blind every year.
Why did it take so long to implement?
The answer is the organization known as Greenpeace who fought the implementation of genetically modified crops. The unfortunate fact is that studies show that the interference of anti-GMO activists, such as Greenpeace, has caused either complete implementation failures or the further plague of hunger to those who need this technology the most.
Our activism against a problem that we are not plagued with takes away our ability to be sympathetic. We agree that world hunger is a problem, but believe the starvation of nearly 795 million humans is not compared to the detriments of GMO research and application.
Somewhere in the process of worrying about the far fetched negatives of continuing GMO research, we lost our humanity.
It’s part of our responsibility as developed nations to raise the quality of life of every person on the planet because of one single fact: human starvation is unacceptable.
In the immortal words of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who is the father of genetically modified crops and credited with saving more human lives than any human in history, “You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.”
Opinion columnist Austin Turman is a political science junior and may be reached at [email protected]