Better question than GMO debate: Are global crops genetically diverse enough?

| | June 15, 2015
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The highly polarized GM debate too often devolves into good vs. evil, or corporate vs. small and organic farmers. The barrage of information and misinformation out there makes it difficult for people to separate fact from fiction and to think about the use of genetic technology on a case-by-case basis, as we should, rather than as an all or nothing proposition, as it is often presented. It also obscures a much more critical question about food security and the future of agriculture.

Are global crops (GM or not) diverse enough?

The answer is no. More than 10,000 plants have been cultivated for food over the course of human history, yet the world largely relies on less than 1 percent of that diversity to meet 90 percent of all global food needs, and only three crops (wheat, corn, and rice) to meet nearly 60 percent of global food demands. And among those few crops – whether they are genetically modified or not – increasingly smaller amounts of genetic diversity are utilized.

So if our major crops have served human civilization well for thousands of years, what’s the problem?

It leaves global food production vulnerable to major crop failure.

Feeding the growing population in a changing climate without increasingly degrading our environment will be challenging and complex. It does not have to mean eating more of the same few crops (GM or not) and minimizing our ability to react to changing pressures, at the cost of losing valuable diversity.

For the sake of food security and sustainability, it is time to move beyond the polarizing debate of pro- and anti-GM and focus efforts on crop diversification. While the future is uncertain, there is no doubt that the success of agriculture depends on the conservation and use of diverse plant genetic resources.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: GMOs or No GMOs — Is That Really the Question?

 

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