So what's the big deal about GMOs?
Advocates, like Microsoft multibillionaire Bill Gates who in 2010 supposedly bought 500,000 shares of US-based Monsanto Corporation (one of the world's leading producer and exporter of pesticides, herbicides and GMO seeds), claim that genetically engineered seed varieties can solve world hunger.
"If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it's possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land," news agency Agence France Press quoted Gates as saying before a forum of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held February last year in Rome.
Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, another GMO advocate, professor at
and former head of the International
Food Policy Research Institute,
said in an interview during a
lecture at Sydney University in : "Imagine if a
drought-tolerant maize variety could be developed and the farmer could grow
that. That way when the drought comes there will be something to eat because
the drought-tolerant crop variety will produce something." Australia
On the other hand, anti-GMO activists debunk Gates' claim. According to them, biotech companies promote GMOs not because of any desire to help but to reap huge profits.
Multi-awarded health diet author John Robbins says: "GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them. They can patent the seeds and the processes which give rise to them. They can make sure that crops can't be grown without their patented chemicals. They can prevent seeds from reproducing themselves. By buying up competing seed companies and closing them down, they can capture the food market, the biggest and most diverse markets of all."
Some say that since genetic engineering is a relatively new and still unproven technology, the use of modified seeds could have a huge adverse impact on the environment and even on human health.
The breeding ability of GMOs has also become a cause for alarm. Anti-GMO scientists speculate about the possible impact on ecology once GMOs cross-pollinate with other plants in the wild.
Still, others say that instead of GMOs the solution to hunger in poverty-wracked countries lies in the provision of infrastructure, like roads and irrigation systems, that will help farmers grow and market their produce.
Opponents of GMO in the
But having a choice of food to eat is a luxury that not everyone enjoys.
In places like
Here are links to an article about GMOs and to a video about its propagation in Hawaii:
- Ariel Murphy