by Joe Pedretti
Cooperative Membership Services Coordinator, Organic Valley
Big agri-business, biotech companies, the U.S. government and the World Trade Organization are all claiming that GMO crops are the solution to world hunger. Several conservative/pro-corporate "think-tanks" have taken up the GMO flag, placing pro-genetic engineering opinion articles in many magazines and newspapers. The uninformed consumer might ask what could be wrong with a technology developed to feed the world.
Genetic engineering is a relatively new and unproven technology. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can have unpredictable consequences for the environment and for human health (see our links for more information).
In truth, when it comes to solving world hunger, GMOs are a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Ending hunger will take political will and determination, not high-tech crops. Agriculture to feed the world must be universally accessible—low-input, low-tech, and fully sustainable. GMO agriculture is none of these things. What's more, the production and spread of GMO crops carries unintended and unpredictable consequences that may wreak havoc on the environment and on human health.
Fortunately, for those of us that support true sustainable agricultural methods, the truth shines through the propaganda every time. Let's take a look at the reality of GMOs and how they impact farmers and hungry people.
The two main GMO crops being grown today—BT corn (repels corn borers) and Roundup™ Ready soybeans (withstands herbicide treatments)—are actually animal feed crops, not food crops. Impoverished nations consume little meat protein and will see little benefit from the adoption of these GMO crops. The third most commonly planted GMO crop is BT cotton—not a crop intended to feed the starving.
With GMO seeds, biotech companies are trying to add value to widely available crops and then patent them, which makes GMO seeds more expensive from the start. Additionally, these GMO varieties require high fertilizer and, in the case of Roundup Ready crops, expensive chemical additives. The only farmers that can afford the seeds and chemicals are those from first-world countries or the wealthy landowners from developing countries, who grow the crops for export, not to feed the poor.
Poor, starving Africans need the ability and tools to feed themselves. Expensive, input-dependent non-indigenous crops are the exact opposite of what is needed to relieve hunger.