On World Food Day, A Question for Greens Opposing GMOs

October 16, 2012

Today is World Food Day, a day designed to focus on reducing worldwide hunger and poverty. According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people worldwide are undernourished. While that number is tragically large, it is a dramatic improvement on where we might have been.

The first UN Millennium Goal has been to cut worldwide hunger in half during the time frame of 1990 to 2015. We have made tremendous progress down that path according to the UN. In 1990, the percentage of people in developing countries who lived on less than $1.25 a day was 45 percent. By 2005 that number had fallen dramatically to 27 percent. Improved crop technology and the move in China to a more market-oriented system have dramatically improved the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people.

To make further progress, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) came out strongly in favor of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which are biotechnology crops. In its 2012 report, FAO noted, "Progress in potential yield through genetic and agronomic research has been an important source of yield growth."

Still, many environmental activists oppose biotechnology and GMOs that hold the promise of increasing crop yields and reducing hunger. I have a question for those environmentalists: what is your solution? How can we increase crop yields to feed another 800 million people without improving technology in the same way that has us on track to meet the UN's Millennium Goal?

Sadly, it is easy for individuals who have plenty of money and resources to grandstand in opposition to new technology. It is less easy when you are faced with malnutrition and hunger.

To be sure, improved genetic and other research is only part of the promising trend we've seen. The spread of free markets has made a significant difference as well. You can help people in developing countries take advantage of that freedom. Various organizations such as KIVA.org connect lenders with entrepreneurs in developing countries, helping them improve their lives by becoming economically independent. To make a microloan to a farmer in a developing country, you can visit the agricultural section of KIVA.org.

That's the choice. How will you celebrate World Food Day -- by helping a farmer become self-sufficient, or by blocking their access to new technologies?


GMO food & World Food Day

Dr. Florence Wambugu of Kenya puts the protest against GMO food more tartly, “You people in the developed world are certainly free to debate the merits of genetically modified foods, but can we please eat first?”