GM Food-Hero or Villain?
Genetically modified food could be the answer to the world’s ever-growing food crisis but why are some people opposed to this technological advancement?
In 2005, almost 15% of the global population were living with food insecurity and this number has continued to increase year upon year. With a rapidly increasing population that is forecasted to exceed nine billion by 2050, current methods of producing food will not be sufficient enough to sustain the expanding global community. Now experts are turning to biotechnology to increase crop yields and ‘feed the world’. Traits and characteristics of crops can be altered using this technology, for example in the US, soya beans have been modified to be resistant to weed killer; consequently less herbicide will be used which is more beneficial to the environment. Improved food quality is another benefit associated with GM foods. A tomato, for instance, can be engineered to stay fresher for longer, thereby extending its shelf life in the supermarket. Yet another benefit that is believed to occur from GM technology is that crops can be engineered to withstand weather fluctuations and extremes. This means that they can provide sufficient yields and quality despite a severe, poor weather season. Even minorities, such as the Amish who don’t use the internet or phones, use biotechnology to protect their crops against the previously disastrous effects of the corn borer. Fifty scientific reviews of GM food have deemed the new technology to be safe but there are still vast quantities of people who are against the continued use of GM foods.
The UK is virtually GM-free and this is mainly due to large amount of protestors opposing the idea of ‘playing god’ when altering food. Although there have been no recorded cases of GM foods causing illness, the potential risks are still unknown which concerns many people; some even think that GM food could cause forms of cancer to develop. Another potential downside to GM technology is that other organisms in the environment could be harmed, which would lead to a lower level of biodiversity. By removing one pest that harms the crop, you could be removing a food source for an animal. Moreover, deforestation is a major issue with the use of biotechnology as large areas of land need to be cleared in order for the production of GM foods to be efficient and productive.
It is clear to see why there are groups of people who disagree with the use of biotechnology to end the global food crisis but with an expanding population, what other options do we have? It increases the yield of crops and frankly, this is what is needed to feed those suffering from malnutrition in the poorer areas of the world or the crisis will continue to worsen if the situation is not acted upon.