According to Geonumbers.com, 37% of crops are lost annually to pests. According to Businessweek, this year alone, the United States has had a 12% decrease in crop production because of droughts. This means that almost 50% of all U.S. crops are destroyed before we even have a chance to utilize them, not to mention the amount of food wasted by spoiling. This is where GMOs come into play.
GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are animals or plants that are modified to possess certain traits, which can range anywhere from containing various vitamins and vaccines to enzymes that will make the organism survive in an otherwise uninhabitable area. In fact, Alan McHughen , authors of A Consumer’s Guide to GM Food, claims that, “scientists are developing better crops: more nutritious rice, potatoes that absorb less oil in frying, and sugar beets with modified lower-calorie sugars.” (225)
In this context, GMOs could be modified to both ward off pests and survive in inclement weather. An example of this in practice is the Bt Potato. Bt is short for Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil bacterium that was first used in potatoes, but has since been used on other vegetation.
This compound accumulates toxicity through sproulation, meaning that as it spreads to other crops, the toxicity increases. After attaching to the crop’s soil, these spores remain dormant until ingested. As we all know, insects eat crops, many actually lay their eggs in or around vegetation, this compound was designed to combat this. What is special about this toxin is its ability to discern between larval insects and other organisms. If an insect larvae consume the toxic spores, the spores coat the inner lining of the stomach which prevents nutrition intake. The insect stops feeding and dies. However, if any other organism ingests these spores, they are unaffected (McHughen, 47). This is the much better alternative to over-planting, which depletes the soil, or constantly spraying various pesticides, which ruin the fields and can be harmful to people. What’s more, GMOs can even increase the yield of one plant, something that we desperately need.
Anthony Trewas, an author in Food Ethics claims that by 2025 there will 2.3 billion more people on the earth, and the earth simply cannot support that many additional people. He also claims that GM processes can actually increase a plants output by 35%. Author Alan McHughen agreed claiming that, “traditional varieties and landraces of most crops cannot compete in yield or quantity, in this regard cross-breeding yields more money to farmers and costs the consumer less” (60). This means that the more organic ways of crop production are not sustainable with our growing population. These crops can literally feed billions of people healthier and more sustainable food without straining the environment any further. If taken to its logical conclusion, this process could even cure world hunger, after all, if you can increase the output of a plant, you can and will have more food than you would otherwise. It is a win-win.
GM and other Biotechnologies are the way of the future. We are growing in number at an alarming rate, with no way of supporting everyone. Without implementing some kind of way to feed these people billions will go hungry. So don’t be afraid of GMOs, they are here to stay and can really be helpful in the long run.
McHughen, Alan. A Consumer’s Guide to GM Food. New York: Oxford University Press 2000. Print.
Pence, Gregory E. The Ethics of Food. Lanham: Roman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2002. Print.