This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Sunday, January 17, 2016

We Need GMO Food to Feed the World

I mention in the book, and I've discussed it in this blog before, but it's worth restating: GMO food is not going to kill us. Rather, it is what is required if we are to feed the world's continually growing population. This point was made rather emphatically on the CBS Sunday Morning program this morning. Citing a Pew Research poll, the story notes that "Polls show 57 percent of Americans think GMOs are unsafe to eat. But consider this: 88 percent of scientists say GMOs are safe."
"We're looking at genes that make the plants tolerant of flooding," said Dr. Pam Ronald, a plant geneticist at the University of California - Davis, whose husband is a certified organic farmer. "We're also interested in drought. And we're also looking at genes that control the disease resistance in plants."
Petersen asked, "Has any study shown even as much as one person who's been harmed or died from eating food that was genetically engineered?"
"There's not a single instance of harm to human health or the environment using genetically-engineered crops," Ronald replied. 
Ronald points out that farmers have been genetically altering food for thousands of years, using techniques like grafting, hybridization, and cross-breeding. Look at corn, for example: Today's modern sweet corn produces a hundredfold more grain than its ancient ancestor, which is not used anymore.
"Nothing we eat has been engineered by nature," said Ronald. "Everything we eat has been genetically altered using human intervention."
Now, this is not the same thing as saying that we should agree to everything that Monsanto does. We need checks and balances. But we also need to separate GMOs from corporate misdeeds. Let me repeat a comment I made in that earlier blog post because, in my opinion, this is the main point surrounding GMO food:
Obviously, there are good genetic modifications and bad ones, but we need to allow ourselves the ability to choose the good and move on. Think of it this way: if we just let nature take its course on all issues related to food, water, and health, there would be fewer than 1 billion of us on the planet and we would all have a very low life expectancy. We would still be living in the demographic hell that has consumed most of human existence up until very recently. I doubt that very many of us long for that existence...

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