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why are g.m. wheat corn being held up as necessary to feed a.growing population when we can grow a thousand times more weight of food per acre with conventional farming of cabbages?

Submitted by: padra


Expert response from Janet Carpenter

Owner, J E Carpenter Consulting LLC M.S. Agricultural and Resource Economics

Monday, 18/05/2015 16:12

Moderator Note:  This response was drafted with input from Dr. Felicia Storer


Your question points to an important challenge facing the world’s agricultural systems, which is how we will feed an estimated 2 billion more people by 2050 who increasingly demand meat, eggs and dairy in their diet.  While in the past we have cleared wild lands to grow more crops, the availability of new land is constrained, and we have a better understanding of the negative environmental impacts of clearing land for crop production.  Therefore, increased crop production will have to come primarily through increased productivity on land already in agriculture.  The genetic modification of crops, with traits such as pest and disease tolerance, stress tolerance and enhanced nutritional characteristics, comprises a range of technologies that can contribute to meeting the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population in the decades to come.  Farmers are already realizing increased yields from adopting currently available GM crops (see Klumper & Qaim 2013.)  There is much unrealized potential from available GM crops that could be adopted in countries where they are not currently grown, as well as from technology that is still in development.


You are correct that cabbage yields are much greater than those of wheat and corn.  However, when it comes to actual food consumption, corn and wheat have higher utilization globally.  Not only are corn and wheat used for consumption on their own, each of those foods have diverse uses AS food – whether it be in bread, cereal or snack chips.  Both corn and wheat are foods that are consumed globally – across cultures – on just about every continent.  They are part of many traditional foodways.  In the U.S., wheat products are fortified with B vitamins that may be removed as part of the milling process.  Not only are they inexpensive, they have longer shelf life than cabbage.  Cabbage is high in vitamins K and C.  However, it requires refrigeration, has limited food use and a very distinct taste that is not universally enjoyed by all.


We will need to employ a varieties of tools to meet the needs of a growing population in the coming years.  Given the benefits and safety record of GM crops over the past almost 20 years, they should be part of the solution.


Moderator Note: There is no GM wheat in commercial production or available on the market today.