GMO (genetically modified) crops have an undoubtedly strong influence in the world that seems to only be growing. In the USA, GMO soybeans altered to be especially herbicide resistant account for 94% of the total soy that’s grown. Worldwide many developing and third world countries are looking to GMO crops to solve lack of food and poor health problems among vast populations.
However it’s not all good news. There’s a lot of debate around the safety of consuming GMO crops and some countries have gone so far as to ban them. In the EU it is a requirement that all foods containing GMO must be labelled as such: people are certainly wary of them if not hostile. In the US some 300,000 individuals including small farmers and citizens joined suits against the largest manufacturer of GMO seeds and crops, Monsanto.
With so many people worried about how GMO crops could be damaging us and the world we live in, some people are beginning to ask what the world would really be like without them. We take a look at 3 interesting perspectives.
Purdue University Study
Just last year a group of concerned agriculture experts joined together to have a go at predicting what the world would look like if we removed all GMO crops. Their results aren’t too positive.
Wally Tyner, James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics; Farzad Taheripour, a research associate professor of agricultural economics; and Harry Mahaffey, an agricultural economics graduate student formed the group.
In conclusion, they predict that “If in the future we ban GMOs at the global scale, we lose lots of potential yield.” The implications of this delve much deeper.
Firstly, they point out that a return to non-GMO crops means more effort and resources spent on the farm. Herbicides will certainly be reduced as farmers need to be more careful about spraying their non-GMO crops that are no longer herbicide resistant. On the flipside you’re also going to be looking at farmers returning to older tech, more ploughing, more irrigation and perhaps even the return of some pests we’ve managed to eradicate. The university study predicts that overall we’re going to see an increase in the release of greenhouse gases if we remove the GMO crops we currently rely on.
Furthermore, with lower crop yields you’ll see food prices rocket and the market will change considerably for farmers and consumers alike.
International Business Times
Roxanne Palmer for International Business Times starts by looking in a different direction entirely. By pointing out examples where GMOs have already been removed, she draws conclusions from hard evidence.
When 2 cereal producing giants announced they were dropping the GMO ingredients in their food, more was lost from the finished product than first realised. One of the cereals had completely dropped the vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin B12 – simply because these ingredients were GMO added, not found naturally in the organic ingredients of the cereal. This change to organic, healthy ingredients turns out to be counterproductive. Would we see more of this if the world was to remove GMO crops?
In contradiction to Purdue Universities study, her findings and talks with a plant geneticist at the University of Florida suggest that it’s not actually the price of foods containing GMO ingredients that would rise if they were removed. They point out that the real rise in cost would come through in the dairy and meat aisle of the supermarket, as many farmers currently use GMO feeds for livestock.
“Proceed with caution” is the take of this respected society. As quick as they are to point out the huge benefits GMOs could have for developing nations, such as “golden rice”, a genetically modified variety of rice with added vitamin A and improved nutrition to feed a hungry population, they also give warning and suggest alternatives to solving food shortages.
In a piece on food shortages worldwide, Nation Geographic draws attention towards the fact that there is plenty of food in this world for all humans already, and if we adopted methods of redistributing that food across all nations we could balance out nicely. This would remove the need for GMO crops developed to produce greater yields. Unity through sharing food is certainly a peaceful idea but not one based in the real world at current times: politics will get in the way first, followed by the corporations and big business.
The ideas they explore certainly suggest that a future world without GMO crops is a possibility, but we’re still a long way off.
There are plenty of problems with GMO crops currently, from the bullish legal battles of Monsanto and the decline of small, organic farms to greater uses of herbicides damaging the environment and the rise of super-weeds. Their supposed impact on human health and what the future of GMO crops should look like really varies depending on who you ask: for the meantime, the majority of the population either don’t seem to mind GMO crops or are looking at them as a brilliant solution. The real problem right now is for farmers trying to maintain a profitable, organic farm, battling against GMO farm neighbours and market prices. Nothing in the future is certain, so keep watching this space.