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Genetically modified crops: Key to food security, or false hope?

DNAAs concerns over the planet’s future food security mount, some scientists say our only hope lies with an agricultural revolution centred on genetically modified (GM) crops.

“We need a new and ‘greener revolution,’ improving production and efficiency through the food chain within environmental and other constraints,” John Beddington, Britain’s chief scientist, told attendees at the UK’s Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month. “Techniques and technologies from many disciplines, ranging from biotechnology and engineering to newer fields such as nanotechnology, will be needed.”

Furthermore, Beddington noted, those innovations need to start being launched now, as it can typically take from 10 to 15 years for research advances to make their way into widespread use on farms.

Britain’s recently released food strategy for the next 20 years, “Food 2030,” also broaches the topic of more GM agriculture:

“GM, like nanotechnology, is not a technological panacea for meeting the varied and complex challenges of food security, but could have some potential to help meet future challenges,” the report states. “Safety must remain our top priority and the government will continue to be led by science when assessing the safety of GM technologies.”

Part of that strategy will involve a “programme of consumer engagement” to start a conversation with citizens about their understanding and concerns about GM foods.

While policy-makers pin their hopes on genetically modified food miracles, though, a fair number of activists and ordinary citizens view GM crops as “Frankenfoods” with the potential to disrupt natural systems even further. They also question the wisdom of relying on crops from seeds that are the proprietary products of large corporations and thus protected by intellectual property laws.

So where does the truth lie? Consider some of these latest findings surrounding GM foods:

What do you think? Are GM foods the key to a sustainable future, or will they prove to be a messy technological fix to a problem we could better solve in other ways? Let us know in the comments section below.


  • Economic Survivor
    Posted January 16, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Apparently the GMO jump to human DNA is conclusive –

  • Paulina Smid
    Posted January 14, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Seeing that by 2030 the global population is likely to have reached 9bn (that’s 3bn more than now), and with climate change likely to lead to more “extreme” weather, i.e. drought and flooding, GM might well be a good thing. In 2030, we’ll have more people and less space to grow food, so why not integrate GM if it helps us produce more, and more nutritious, food?

    Having said that, I do think we should also practice non-GM-related solutions, such as crop rotation and switching to different plants – growing rice and cotton in arid areas is just not a very smart thing to do. It also couldn’t hurt if we all ate less meat – farming livestock requires land for the cultivation of feed, which could otherwise be used to grow vegetables/grains/fruit for human (not bovine or other) consumption.

    It’s a very interesting subject, and despite many people being completely against GM, I’d say “Don’t blame the messenger” – it’s a technology, and whether it’s good or bad depends on how we use it.

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