Nobel laureate in medicine: GMOs are ‘key tool’ to address global hunger

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Each year several million children either die or suffer irreparable developmental defects because of vitamin A deficiency. Countless others are harmed by malnutrition and starvation. Yet many of these deaths would be preventable if we addressed them head on and used the tools that exist to stop them. One of the key tools is the use of genetically modified organisms, known better as GMOs.

The battle over genetically modified crops is rife with business interests and political opportunism. When GMOs were first produced in laboratories around the world, they were rightly heralded as a tremendous leap forward in our ability to supplement nature by providing high-nutrient foods. But when Monsanto, the world’s largest GMO producer, tried to introduce the new seeds into Europe in the early 1990s, the firm met stiff opposition. The move was viewed as a money grab by Monsanto — despite the fact that the GMOs also allow farmers to use less pesticides on plants — rather than a benefit to the food-rich European people. The most vocal opponents, particularly among Green Party activists, accused American agribusiness of trying to take over the European food supply.

Amid this anger, a political campaign to ban GMOs was launched with the underlying, if misleading, message that Europeans must be protected from poisons in their food. It worked. The myth that GMO foods are dangerous was firmly planted in the public psyche. Well-fed Europeans don’t need GMO foods, but the rest of the world does. I have been intimately involved in the techniques of genetic modification as a scientist since GMOs were first conceived. In that time, hundreds of studies and tests have been done on GMO safety — and we’ve seen no scientific evidence that GMOs are inherently more dangerous than crops produced by traditional plant breeding.

After two decades of decrying GMO foods unsafe for Europeans, the Greens and their allies cannot now turn around and claim that biotech crops are safe for Africa. So they stick to this political ploy, spreading misinformation across the globe. For the sake of sick children and those who go to bed hungry, we must fight the self-serving, political arguments of the anti-GMO movement and ensure that the benefits of GMOs are available to all — perhaps even Europeans.

Richard Roberts is chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs and the 1993 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine for the discovery of split genes. He recently joined the faculty at Northeastern University.

Read the full, original article: GMOs are a key tool to addressing global hunger

  • David Smith

    “For the sake of sick children and those who go to bed hungry, we must fight the self-serving, political arguments of the anti-GMO movement and ensure that the benefits of GMOs are available to all — perhaps even Europeans.”

    How dare you use such an emotional argument which is entirely unfounded! This article shamelessly uses unsubstantiated emotional arguments to sell GM technology.

    The reason world hunger exists is complex:
    – Climate – not enough water to sustain commercial crops
    – Access to input technology
    – Access to markets
    – Farm subsidies in developed countries make it difficult to compete in world markets ($20 billion is paid to farmers in the US)
    – Political unrest
    – Lack of access to newer varieties
    etc….

    The fact that GM crops can contribute positively is a certainty. But to suggest that world hunger cannot be solved without GM crops over sells the technology.
    In the USA with the greatest production of GM in the world it is estimated that 1 in 6 people go hungry according to the Hunger in America website: http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts.aspx

    There is not a single scientific study that shows that food has become cheaper in countries where GM crops have been introduced – even though this is often promised or stated as fact.
    But GM technology can help – for example in reducing damage by insects where it is a problem. But that is only a small part of the challenge facing farmers in developing countries.

    Currently, the world produces enough food – the problem is one of distribution.

    • RobertWager

      Perhaps you can tell us what these people meant then:

      “There is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and the environment than any other technology used in plant breeding…There is compelling evidence that GM crops can contribute to sustainable development goals with benefits to farmers, consumers, the environment and the economy.” European National Academies of Science Advisory Council (2013)

      • David Smith

        1. Did you actually read my comment? What part of my comment: “The fact that GM crops can contribute positively is a certainty. But to suggest that world hunger cannot be solved without GM crops over sells the technology.” did you not understand?

        2. But I do have a problem with unsubstantiated emotional statements such as: “For the sake of sick children and those who go to bed hungry, we must fight the self-serving, political arguments of the anti-GMO movement and ensure that the benefits of GMOs are available to all — perhaps even Europeans.” If this were true than there should be no hungry or sick children in the USA. Which according to the “Hunger in America” website this is clearly not true. Now refer back to comment 1.

        Emotional statements like this don’t actually help the GM discussion at all. If African farmers received $20 billion in farm subsidies together with the extension support provided to farmers in the USA, there would be no lack of food – with or without GM crops. What I’m trying to point out is that “GM or not GM” is actually not the issue here. There is a bigger problem and while articles likes this suggest simplistic solutions to very complex problems the problem will never be addressed.

    • First Officer

      We’re all ears to hear your solution to seemless global distribution of perishable foods.

      • David Smith

        Refer to my answer above…