CP Editorial: GMOs provide farmers with tools to feed the 9 billion

If you were put in charge of feeding nine billion people by the year 2050, how would you do it?

Farmers are faced with this question every day and are often demanded by consumers and the industry to produce quick answers. My answer to this question would be quite simple — I would feed nine billion people by supporting the use of GMOs.

For many consumers, the acronym GMO elicits feelings of fear. That simple combination of letters has evolved to have a bad connotation. Many individuals believe that foods containing GMOs are dangerous or harmful to consumers without even understanding how GMOs are created. In fact, GMOs have become an important component of modern production agriculture. Contrary to the belief of some consumers, genetically modified organisms are not harmful when eaten and they do help increase farming efficiency.

Those opposed to the presence of GMOs in our food cite reproductive disorders and digestive problems as two examples of negative effects of eating GMO foods. In reality, GMOs do not threaten the safety of consumers. The United States Food and Drug Administration regulates food made from genetically modified organisms just as it regulates organic food. The Food and Drug Administration website states, “Food and food ingredients derived from Genetically Engineered plants must adhere to the same safety requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act that apply to food and food ingredients derived from traditionally bred plants.” If the consumption of GMOs were unsafe or harmful, the FDA would not allow foods containing genetically modified organisms to be produced or sold.

In addition, the use of GMO seeds results in less use of chemicals and improved yields.

When farmers plant pest-resistant crops, they can expect higher yields due to a decrease in the damage pests cause. Crops that have been genetically modified to be pest resistant possess a protein that is completely safe for consumption by humans. A website that provides science-based information and resources on agriculture, food and technology, ucbiotech.org, further explains this safety.

“(The genetically modified proteins) behave as would be expected of a dietary protein, are not structurally related to any known food allergen or protein toxin, and do not display any oral toxicity when administered at high doses,” ucbiotech.org stated. “The Environmental Protection Agency does not require long-term studies because the protein’s instability in digestive fluids makes such studies meaningless in terms of consumer health.”

Another type of GMO results in herbicide-resistant plants. This resistance allows farmers to spray their crops with herbicide to kill the weeds without killing the actual crops planted in the field.

Both increased pest and increased herbicide resistance add to one of the most important improvements genetically modified organisms offer to the farming industry: increased yields.

Using GMOs also allows farmers to think hopefully about their ability to feed nine billion people by 2050.

The proof of productivity of these genetically modified organisms lies in the trend of planting genetically modified crops. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the percentage of genetically modified crops planted in the United States in 1996 ranged from zero to 15 percent. In 2013, this percentage ranged from 75 to 93 percent. If farmers weren’t seeing results that were beneficial to their production practices, why would so many of them make the switch to genetically modified crops?

As misconceptions about GMOs continue to rise, the agriculture industry will continue to fight the arguments with facts and a hope to feed the world.