Today, one in seven people will go hungry. An even greater threat then AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined is the world’s number one health problem – hunger.
98 precent of people affected by hunger and malnutrition live in developing countries. Three-quarters of which live rurally. Often, these communities experience frequent crisis because they are highly dependent on agriculture for their food. With land that is prone to drought or natural disasters, a community’s livelihood is hanging on the whim of mother nature.
One of the biggest problems is that the soil, weather conditions and occurrences of natural disasters result in crops producing a very low yield. Genetically modifying food can equip crops, such as wheat, with the ability to be pesticide-resistant, to fight disease and insects, to withstand climate conditions and more.
We have actually been modifying foods for hundreds of years – just not necessarily in a lab. Almost all carrots were purple before the 17th century. It wasn’t until Dutch farmers played Frankenstein and mixed mutant strains of the purple carrot with yellow and white carrots to eventually create the orange kind that we enjoy today. This has happened with many other foods and in common ways such as producing seedless fruits.
Currently, research tells us that GM food is fine (health wise) but there are other concerns. For instance, whilst wheat has been developed to withstand weather conditions and diseases, no crop has been modified to the extent of it being able to harvest itself or live through the rampage of a rouge tractor. Naturally with any scientific advance there is always the question of how far is too far?
Professor Paul Collier commented in The New York Times, that “Genetic modification is analogous to nuclear power: nobody loves it, but climate change has made its adoption imperative. As Africa’s climate deteriorates, it will need to accelerate crop adaptation. As population grows it will need to raise yields. Genetic modification offers both faster crop adaptation and a biological, rather than chemical, approach to yield increases.”
Now, I’m not a scientist (clearly) and there is a huge amount of scope and information to be addressed when discussing GM foods. However, I would like to see the discussion happen as world hunger is too great of an issue for any potential solution to be prematurely dismissed.
Governments around the globe need to better invest in their scientists and research based organisations so that we can start to make clear decisions and steps to addressing the world’s largest health threat. We can still do our part individually by making donations but ultimately there will need to be a bigger picture approach. Is that genetically modified food? Hopefully we will find out soon.
Stats from the World Food Programme