GM Crops - The Solution to Scarcity or a Whole New Problem?
Depending on what year you're in you may or may not have heard about genetically modified crops - known as GM for short. Simply, it's the process of artificially changing the DNA of a plant so that the plant possesses certain valuable properties such as resistance to pesticides. Though this breakthrough won it's discoverer a Nobel prize the use of this procedure in commercial farming has been a controversial venture.
Organisations such as Greenpeace are outspoken in their distaste over the widespread usage of GM in commercial farming. Farmers plant crops resistant to pesticides so when they do spray pesticides they can spray a lot more without reducing yields. This is extremely worrying, considering since some studies have shown pesticides link to cancer, altzimers, Parkinson's and birth defects in unborn babies. When it comes to the growing use of chemicals we can't exactly be sure of what they do to us until it's too late.
Not only this but there's the worry that GM companies may engineer seeds to reduce the plants ability to produce new seeds. This means the farmers have to keep returning and purchasing new seeds yearly, greatly disadvantaging them. Though a believable theory any case of this happening hasn't been recorded as of yet.
Another working consequence of overusing GM crops is the lack of biodiversity. Huge areas of land are used to grow only one crop meaning no other plants or animals can live there. This can potentially lead to a reduction in flavours and food diversity. As well as this the constant intensive farming leads to the depletion of the soils nutrients. The land then becomes infertile so no other plants can be grown without overusing fertilisers which are can harm water based ecosystems due to the run off of nutrients. However theses issues are found in all large scale commercial farming schemes - not just those that use GM.
So why are we using GM crops in farming? Despite the obvious and glaring downsides, could they create more good than harm?
You're probably aware of the fact the worlds population is rapidly increasing. With war, drought and poverty leading to starvation across the globe. Research has also shown that people are growing taller and heavier meaning people will need more calories a day to prevent starvation. Not only this but climate change is causing a whole heap of problems such as flooding, desertification and wildfires to name a few. This leads to the depletion of fertile land available for growing food to fulfill our growing calorie needs. GM decreases the amount of crops lost to diseases and pests so we don't need as much space. Potentially leading to more widespread food security.
Plants can also be modified to increase growth. Scientists have recently figured out how to grow tobacco plants 40% larger by decreasing the amount of energy the plants needs to use to recycle toxic chemicals. This gives the plant more energy for growth so farmers don't need to use as much fertilisers- reducing their negative environmental impact.
At the end of the day the choice between GM and organic produce should come down to each individual consumer but we may not have that choice. Currently we're producing enough food to feed ten billion people, so why is there starvation in Yemen?
We in the developed world are buying, eating and wasting far more food than we need simply because we can afford to. This global capitalistic system we live in allocates essential resources where the wealth is - not where it's needed. If we distributed our resources based on necessity and not financial demand there would be no need for GM crops in the first place.
Despite being an incredibly interesting realm of scientific research, in industry GM crops simply show a lot of the glaring issues with commercial agriculture that benefit no one but the company. The very fast and concerning development of GM illustrates the dangers in allowing corporations to utililse some scientific discovery's. If nothing else I hope the current usage of genetically modified crops acts as a warning and a deterrent for the misuse of further scientific breakthroughs.