GMOs have the potential to ease strain on earthBy Sarah Howard | 08/29/2016 1:12am
The world’s population is expected to increase by 2.3 billion people by the year 2050. This dramatic growth will require the production of 70 percent more food than we are able to cultivate now.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have the potential to ease the strain on the earth that this population boom will cause. GMOs are some of the most wildly misunderstood scientific advancements of our time. Although we as humans have been altering large parts of plant DNA for millions of years through selective breeding, insertion of one single gene by a scientist has recently begun to terrify the general public.
These modified plants are typically created to increase the efficiency of each crop, lowering the demand of water and growing the yield per acre. There has also been good news for those concerned with certain pesticides because GMOs are often made more resistant to insects on their own so that pesticide use can be limited. A common example of this would be Bt crops. Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis which is an insect-resistant bacterium that naturally occurs in our soil. In the United States, around 75 percent of our corn and cotton farmland is planted with these types of GMOs, lowering the usage of insecticides to only 9 percent. It is indisputable to say that the advancements made by the creation of these products will be vital in preventing a food shortage when populations increase.
Although the general population has safety and environmental concerns when it comes to GMOs, many of these are unfounded or disproved. Several studies have been conducted regarding the invasiveness of the manipulated species, most notably with corn, and they have not found them to be any more invasive than the non-genetically altered kinds. When it comes to their safety, the scientific community has yet to find any legitimate risks with the new foods although they continue to test and check each new strain.
Unfortunately, one of the silent driving forces behind today’s concern with GMOs is actually political. California’s Proposition 37 regarding mandatory labeling of such products was even supported officially by the state’s Democratic Party and opposed by the Republican Party. The organizations and businesses that have the budget to fund the creation of new species tend to be large ones, like Monsanto and Syngenta. This country’s current concern with big business and the 1 percent means that many do not want to see these companies directly affiliated with a large portion of our food supply. The politicians and activists against multi-national corporations tend to perpetuate the above concerns despite ongoing evidence.
Genetically modified organisms are not dangerous. They instead are incredibly beneficial to the world’s growing population and with continued acceptance will pave the way for new methods to come. It is important that our country stays on the path towards the future in all facets of life, not just social or political, but also scientific.
Sarah Howard is a junior majoring in chemistry. Her column runs biweekly.