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Question

Why do you think GMOs are the way feed people? DO NOT ARGUE that they produce higher yields to feed the world because we both know 40% of food is tossed out and another good portion goes toward feeding livestock- and also there is significant evidence that the role of high-yielding seeds have basically handed the arable land the starving lives on to foreigners who have no intention of domestically selling the food produced on land that isn't theirs. This technology has SO MUCH EVIDENCE it has only made the first world better off and it has actually made the world-wide famine situation WORSE OFF.

Submitted by: Brenna Aune


Answer

Expert response from Kevin Folta

Professor and Chairman, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida

Thursday, 09/10/2014 18:36

I’m glad you asked this question and that it was routed to me. I can keep this in perspective, and I want your help in the end.

 

The blanket statement that biotech crops are useless to the world’s populations is not much of a testament to those that are glad to have them — and those that want them. There are well-documented cases where farmers in India do see higher cotton yields (Kathage and Qiam, 2012), and farmers throughout South America have also found the products beneficial. Bt brinjal’s early reviews are good. Several countries in Africa are not waiting for the approval of the industrialized world’s affluent shoppers and activists to benefit from this helpful technology. Many countries are starting their own programs to feed their own people—and there’s not much those opposed to the technology can do, as those served in the developing world are not buying books and watching documentaries on Netflix. They don’t want nonscientific rhetoric; they want solutions.

 

(Just an aside: I’ve met at least four African scientists in the last five years who trained in Europe or the United States and went back to Africa to start biotech programs in local crops; my heart goes out to them, and I applaud their vision.)

 

How well these solutions will be (and have been) adopted and actually useful will vary tremendously from place to place.

 

There is no silver bullet. Installing insect, fungus or bacterial resistance could be of huge benefit to many places on our globe. Giving crops the ability to grow in high-salt soils, flooding, heat or many other biotic and abiotic stresses could be extremely helpful to those in marginal areas. Even more, some plants now have increased folate, beta-carotene, iron and other necessary compounds. These could have profound advantages for those deficient in such nutrition. Of course, these technologies exist but have not been deployed, mostly because some in the industrialized world have done everything they can to stop their deployment.

 

I’m with you 100 percent on the problems of food produced and unused. It breaks my heart. In the industrialized world, the problem is waste, and even cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables (the ones I buy, by the way) end up in landfills. That bothers me to no end. In the developing world, the problem is spoilage. These folks fret not over a blemish on a fruit or vegetable, but over a lack of postharvest treatments and logistics to get food to those who need it before it becomes genuinely inedible or is destroyed by pests.

 

The after-harvest theater is a perfect place for a transgenic set of solutions. In the industrialized world, can we make transgenic plants that have more uniform pollination or resist unsightly blemishes? Absolutely, but such things are not available and will likely not be approved anytime soon. In the developing world, can we use transgenics as part of a plan to allow the poor to grow diverse and nutritious crops in less-than-favorable conditions? Absolutely. That technology has existed for a decade but has not been allowed to help.

 

The trick is to remember that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but there are many “this-size-fits-her” or “this-size-fits-them” solutions that we are looking past because of fear and misinformation. I hope that concerned people like you reach out to problem solvers like me, and let’s find a way to provide solutions (biotech or other) to those who desperately need them. Thanks for your question.

 

Kevin

Answer

Expert response from Kevin Folta

Professor and Chairman, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida

Thursday, 09/10/2014 18:36

I’m glad you asked this question and that it was routed to me. I can keep this in perspective, and I want your help in the end.

 

The blanket statement that biotech crops are useless to the world’s populations is not much of a testament to those that are glad to have them — and those that want them. There are well-documented cases where farmers in India do see higher cotton yields (Kathage and Qiam, 2012), and farmers throughout South America have also found the products beneficial. Bt brinjal’s early reviews are good. Several countries in Africa are not waiting for the approval of the industrialized world’s affluent shoppers and activists to benefit from this helpful technology. Many countries are starting their own programs to feed their own people—and there’s not much those opposed to the technology can do, as those served in the developing world are not buying books and watching documentaries on Netflix. They don’t want nonscientific rhetoric; they want solutions.

 

(Just an aside: I’ve met at least four African scientists in the last five years who trained in Europe or the United States and went back to Africa to start biotech programs in local crops; my heart goes out to them, and I applaud their vision.)

 

How well these solutions will be (and have been) adopted and actually useful will vary tremendously from place to place.

 

There is no silver bullet. Installing insect, fungus or bacterial resistance could be of huge benefit to many places on our globe. Giving crops the ability to grow in high-salt soils, flooding, heat or many other biotic and abiotic stresses could be extremely helpful to those in marginal areas. Even more, some plants now have increased folate, beta-carotene, iron and other necessary compounds. These could have profound advantages for those deficient in such nutrition. Of course, these technologies exist but have not been deployed, mostly because some in the industrialized world have done everything they can to stop their deployment.

 

I’m with you 100 percent on the problems of food produced and unused. It breaks my heart. In the industrialized world, the problem is waste, and even cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables (the ones I buy, by the way) end up in landfills. That bothers me to no end. In the developing world, the problem is spoilage. These folks fret not over a blemish on a fruit or vegetable, but over a lack of postharvest treatments and logistics to get food to those who need it before it becomes genuinely inedible or is destroyed by pests.

 

The after-harvest theater is a perfect place for a transgenic set of solutions. In the industrialized world, can we make transgenic plants that have more uniform pollination or resist unsightly blemishes? Absolutely, but such things are not available and will likely not be approved anytime soon. In the developing world, can we use transgenics as part of a plan to allow the poor to grow diverse and nutritious crops in less-than-favorable conditions? Absolutely. That technology has existed for a decade but has not been allowed to help.

 

The trick is to remember that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but there are many “this-size-fits-her” or “this-size-fits-them” solutions that we are looking past because of fear and misinformation. I hope that concerned people like you reach out to problem solvers like me, and let’s find a way to provide solutions (biotech or other) to those who desperately need them. Thanks for your question.

 

Kevin