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ARTICLE: Are GMOs the key to global food security?

The following is an excerpt of an article at Devex that examines the role of genetically modified crops in the struggle for global food security

Food security is, and will continue to be, one of our greatest ongoing development challenges. We not only need to provide food and nutrition for a growing global population, but we must do so in the face of mounting environmental challenges. The global climate is changing, and land suitable for agriculture and food production is changing with it. Salinification and desertification, flooding and drought, and natural disasters threaten agriculture across the globe. With changing temperatures, meanwhile, come new risks from pests and diseases.

Agricultural and food security experts are investigating a range of ways to address these challenges. Solutions range from everything from new breeding programs, to better monitoring and evaluation, to farming strategies that reduce waste and increase yield.

But in discussing a food-secure future, the role of genetically modified organisms remains a raging debate.

At the core of the anti-GMO argument is the role large corporations play in the development, implementation, and profit from GMO products — largely Monsanto. Organizations such as Monsanto grew as GMO leaders due to the initial costs involved in the research, development, testing, and intellectual property associated with GMO. Monsanto has developed a range of crops that produce higher yield — including the controversial roundup ready crops, which are pesticide resistant. Monsanto not only makes money from selling high yield seed, but all the associated products that need to be sprayed on them to produce the best output.

Opponents raise concern over the environmental impacts of such crops and the patent stipulations for small farmers, and they challenge the science and information coming from organizations such as Monsanto. This concern has led to the cultivation of GMOs being banned or prohibited in more than 30 regions, not including bans that have occurred at subregional levels, as well as food labelling standards identifying products as GMO free.

Today, as technology is becoming more accessible and less expensive, smaller labs and researchers are able to produce GMOs at a reduced costs — with the seed produced available for public good, not profit. And this allows them to respond to small, localized food production issues such as bananas in Uganda and papaya in Hawaii.

For the development sector — where the impact of lost local crops can mean loss of income, increased poverty and loss of culture — does “public good” GMO change the debate?

To read the entire article, please visit Devex