Do we really need agricultural “technologies” such as synthetic pesticides and genetically engineered (also known as genetically modified) food to “feed the world?”
According to Monsanto, Bayer, Dow Chemical, and other large agrochemical corporations, the answer is yes. In many cases, the very existence of GMOs and chemicals like Roundup (with the active ingredient glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen according to the World Health Organization) depends on pushing this narrative.
Despite these claims, the United Nations has long taken the opposite stance — culminating in the release of a new report that warns of catastrophic consequences while taking the manufacturers of these products to task.
UN Experts: Monsanto “Feeding the World” Line is a Myth
As noted in this article from The Guardian, the notion that we need these companies’ pesticides to feed the world’s growing population is a myth, according to food and pollution experts within the UN.
The assertion was revealed in the report, which was presented on March 8 to the UN human rights council.
The report builds on previous concerns raised by a 2013 UN report titled ‘Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,’ which warned of the need to switch to small-scale, natural farming methods in order to combat food insecurity and environmental issues.
In the new report, global pesticide corporations are accused of being responsible for a “systematic denial of harms” caused by their products, as well as “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments that has “obstructed reforms and paralyzed global pesticide restrictions.” Their claims of needing pesticides to feed the world are also are “inaccurate and misleading,” the report added.
The harsh nature of the report may come as a surprise to some, but in many ways is vindication for members of the clean food, non-GMO and pro-organic movements.
The pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole,” the report says, estimating that 200,000 deaths occur each year as a direct result of pesticide poisoning.
“It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production,” the report continued.
Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, had this to say about the pesticide industry’s claim that its products are needed to feed a growing world population (a rise by 2 billion to 9 billion is expected by 2050):
“It is a myth…Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”
He added that many of the pesticides are used on large-scale agricultural crops such as palm oil and soy that are not the types of food needed to feed the world’s hungriest people.
The report also said that humanity needs to wake up to the truth about pesticides by combating industry myths.
“While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge,” it reads. “This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fueled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.”
The next step recommended step is as follows (excerpt from The Guardian):
“(The report) recommended a move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and a move to sustainable practices including natural methods of suppressing pests and crop rotation, as well as incentivizing organically produced food.”
More information can be found in the full report here.