Are genetically modified crops really needed to “feed the world,” or is the phrase simply a marketing slogan that has been repeated so many times it’s now considered fact by the mainstream media?
According to a new editorial published in The Washington Post, Monsanto’s de facto mission statement isn’t even a question: supporting the non-GMO movement is “immoral,” author Mitch Daniels asserts, building upon the oft-repeated argument that we need GMOs to feed a growing world population.
But like so many proponents of GMOs who can’t see past a surface-level infatuation with the “science” buzzword behind Big Agrobusiness’ controversial technologies, Daniels is missing the point, and the evidence is hiding in plain sight.
Major World Report: Pesticides Not Needed to Feed the World
There are several types of GMO (also known as GE or genetically engineered) crops in development, but the vast majority of those on the market today are designed to do one of two things: either to withstand large sprayings of synthetic agricultural pesticides like Monsanto’s Roundup, or to produce toxins within the plant (such as Bt, used in GE corn) that kill pests before they can do damage.
The business model is fantastic for companies like Monsanto and Bayer, which profit handsomely off both the GE seeds and pesticides that go with them.
There’s just one problem with this approach (that jumps out at first glance, anyway): according to a recent report from the United Nations, pesticides are not needed to feed the world after all.
“It is a myth…Using more pesticides (has) nothing to do with getting rid of hunger,” said Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food.
“According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”
Pesticides Cause Serious Damage Worldwide
In addition to not being necessary, pesticides can cause serious damage to the health of people, animals, and the environment.
The pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole,” the report added, estimating that 200,000 deaths occur each year due to pesticide poisoning.
“It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production,” it concluded.
So, if GMOs and their associated pesticides aren’t needed to feed the world, what type of approach should we take?
According to another earlier UN report, small-scale natural farming (including organic and biodynamic, a little-used method of working with nature in order to maximize yields) is the way to combat the real causes of food insecurity like poverty, income and distribution mentioned above.
These methods help by putting the power to grow and distribute food and seeds back in the hands of many as opposed to a small handful of monstrous agrobusiness corporations, all the while working to improve yields in their own unique ways.
But you won’t see that mentioned anywhere in Daniels’ editorial.
GMOs Are Not Feeding America, Let Alone the Developing World
Meanwhile other media outlets, such as The New York Times, are finally seeing the situation in a different light, as evidenced by the newspaper’s blockbuster recent report ‘Broken Promises of Genetically Modified Crops.’ The newspaper’s analysis found that GM crops are not holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to “feeding the world.”
“Europe did not embrace the technology, yet it achieved increases in yield and decreases in pesticide use on a par with, or even better than, the United States,” the report states.
Hunger remains rampant in the U.S., however.
A billboard for the charity Feeding America, of which Monsanto is a leadership partner, can be seen across the U.S. with the message noting that “1 in 5 Kids Faces Hunger,” all in the country where GMOs are most commonly grown and sold (usually in the form of large monocultures of corn and soy, most of which goes to animal feed, processed foods, and in the case of corn, ethanol).
Creating a charity to help solve that problem may seem admirable on the surface, but once again brings up a troubling, persistent question: “Is Monsanto really trying to ‘feed the world,’ or control the world’s food supply’?”
Because as we all know, there’s a pretty big difference.
And there’s nothing “immoral” about supporting agricultural systems that nurture the health of people and the environment and put control of the food system back in the hands of the people, regardless of what the Post or overzealous columnists like Daniels say.
Thumbnail photo via EcoWatch.com.