Table of Contents
Genetically Modified crops and organisms have become some of the biggest debatable issues today based on their role in bridging the food insecurity gaps and the harm they cause to consumer populations. The genetically modified foods have become a common place in the world, and are present in the first world countries (Goyal and Gurtoo, 2011). Limited research has been conducted to enable consumers to identify the GM foods, as they came into common usage abruptly, with no satisfactory scientific understanding or studies. Today, the increase in the number of biotech companies indicates the prominence that GM foods have acquired over the years. Besides, several governments around the world have adopted policies against and for GMOs, others bordering on the health concerns raised by the limited information available on these food products.
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Advocates for GM foods have put up arguments that portray these foods as the ultimate answer to the problems of food insecurity and hunger in the world (Taheri, Azadi and D’Haese, 2017). Indeed, the world’s growing population has exerted unprecedented pressures on the available food supply, hence imposing an idea that biotechnology can be used to provide solutions to the food supply shortages. This paper provides a detailed discussion of the arguments provided by critics of GM foods who argue that these foods do not have the capacity to overcome the significant food insecurity challenges. The discussion directs its focus on poorer nations, considering the fact that the food insecurity challenges are more dominant among these nations. Following the evaluation, a position will be taken to illustrate and cement my position on the validity of the critics’ arguments that GM foods cannot offer a permanent solution to the food insecurity problem in poorer countries.
The pressure on the global food supply is intensifying due to population growth, changing diets and government policies aimed at promoting biofuels. In a study conducted by Moses and Brookes (2013), the authors projected a double increase in the global demand of food by the year 2050. To illustrate more about this projection, the authors stated that the growing populations have come with increased numbers of economically advantaged and equally poor people. While the populations of the rich get larger, they tend to consume more meat, hence obligating the production of larger meat quantities. This will in turn require an increase in crops such as soy and corn used for animal feed. On the other hand, the population of the poor is increasing at a higher rate than that of the rich. Consequently, the demand on such foods as corn, rice and wheat continues to escalate, hence putting more pressure on the global food reserves.
Food production in the poor countries occupies nearly 40% of the land area (Taheri, Azadi and D’Haese, 2017). This is relative to the global numbers, as trends indicate that food production consumes more fresh water than any other human activity. As such, the biotech industry has promoted the notion that genetically engineered crops are the solution to increasing the crop yields. However, critics of this argument contend that there is no scientific proof of the genetically modified crops providing enough food to cure the problem of food insecurity in poorer nations.
To begin with, biotechnology is practiced more in the US and other developed countries. In these countries, GM technologies have been used to grow crops for commercial purposes, with corn and soy beans being the most commonly grown GM crops. Such crops are grown with the intention of feeding livestock, not people. Critics argue, therefore, that the crops are designated for animal consumption, thus proving beneficial only to the biotech companies and their trade partners. However, such crops do little to relieve the global hunger, more so in the poor countries.
Majority of the investments in GM crops are directed towards feeding animals, not people. Besides, the narrative fuelled by advocates of GM crops as a solution to the food insecurity problem overlooks the main cause of the food insecurity problem that is rampant among poorer nations. Keats (2012) explained that poverty is the leading cause of food shortages in these countries. In the study, the author posited that over 70% of the global farmer population is poor. The advocates of GM foods argue that productivity in these countries has been overshadowed by the increase in food demand. However, the reality is that majority of the farmers lack basic resources to expand their productivity, such as water, fertilizer and infrastructure to facilitate the faster transportation of farm products to markets. Therefore, critics explain that technology is not the solution to the food insecurity challenges in poorer countries, rather the provision of resources to the small farmers who cannot maximize their farm productivity owing to the lack of resources
The notion that GM foods will help solve the food insecurity problem does not consider the fact that genetic engineering research in food is geared towards attaining commercial needs, hence paying little attention to the nutritional needs of the consumers in poorer countries. Significant amount of research in biotech companies is directed towards developing technologies for enhancing the appearance of the GM foods and delaying the rotting or ripening of vegetables and fruits. The nutritional demands and well being of the poor people in poorer countries are overlooked by the commercial needs of the biotech companies, as argued by Taheri, Azadi and D’Haese (2017). Therefore, the provision of large quantity of less nutritious foods does not help in solving the food insecurity problem in poorer nations.
Proponents of this argument state that the biotech companies will help in alleviating the food insecurity problem in poorer countries by providing the poor farmers with technologies to enhance the production of larger food quantities. However, this is a strategy for creating substitutes for the tropical cash crops, which are the basis of the livelihood of majority of the population in the poorer countries. Critics use this argument to explain how genetic engineering of foods will only aggravate hunger and poverty. Besides, the amount of investments put in to develop engineering technologies for genetically modified foods would trickle down to the small farmers, who will find it even more difficult to purchase these technologies, as the biotech company’s aim at recovering the research and development costs incurred in the process of developing these new technologies.
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Personal evaluation of the critic’s arguments
The critics argue that GM crops and foods can do little to address the hunger and food security challenges that are rampant in poorer nations. Having looked at the arguments as presented by the critics, I agree that their arguments fit into the context of the debate, hence cementing my position that GM foods cannot help alleviate food insecurity and hunger in poorer nations. To support my position, I borrow from the contribution by Keats (2012), who stated that over 70% of the global population of farmers is poor, and grow tropical cash crops. However, GM technologies are best suited for large-scale commercial farmers, whose population is limited in the poorer countries. By imposing such farming methods to the poor farmers, threats emerge of pushing these farmers into debt, as they will be more reliant on expensive chemicals and seeds.
Smaller farms are less efficient than the larger modernized farms that employ biotechnology in production. However, the quality of output plays a significant role in determining the satisfaction of the consumers. As elucidated in the arguments by the critics, GM technologies are suited for commercial purposes, with majority of the products directed for animal consumption rather than human consumption. This argument reflects the validity of the statement by Moses and Brookes (2013), who posited that little research has been conducted on how genetic engineering can be used to produce foods that have significant nutritional value for the consumers. Therefore, in poorer nations, food insecurity challenges would persist amidst the adoption of genetic engineering, as the nutritional value of the genetically modified foods would not match the value for money spent on purchasing these foods.
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The environmental impact of genetic engineering continues to be a cause for concern across different countries in which the practice has been implemented. From this study, it has been ascertained that larger quantities of GM crops are used to feed animals. Besides, the technology has been found to suit large scale farmers, hence making it unsuitable for poor farmers in the poor countries. In conclusion, the provision of basic resources to the poor farmer population would go a long way in solving the food insecurity problems in the poorer countries.
- Goyal, P. and Gurtoo, S. (2011). Factors Influencing Public Perception: Genetically Modified Organisms. GMO Biosafety Research, 4(1).
- Keats, J. (2012). Can biotech solve world hunger? New Scientist, 214(2860), p.48.
- Moses, V. and Brookes, G. (2013). The world of “GM-free”. GM Crops & Food, 4(3), pp.135-142.
- Taheri, F., Azadi, H. and D’Haese, M. (2017). A World without Hunger: Organic or GM Crops?.Sustainability, 9(4), p.580.