“I am Not Your Typical Pro-GMO advocate”

Farmer Gene

GMOA Answers recently published an opinion piece on its Forbes blog titled “How Biotech Will Help Achieve Zero Hunger”. Written by Kimberly Flowers, director of the Global Food Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., the piece addresses how biotechnology is one of the possible solutions to eradicate hunger. Flowers argues that population growth is a significant threat to global food security but can be tackled with the help of biotechnology which can increase agricultural production and support nutritious diets.

Read “How Biotech Will Help Achieve Zero Hunger” here:

I am not your typical pro-GMO advocate. As a twice-over returned Peace Corps Volunteer who shops at farmers’ markets, is a certified yoga teacher, and has built a career around alleviating hunger and poverty in the developing world, you might immediately peg me as someone who believes the only way is the organic way.

Quite the contrary.

I believe that biotechnology is an essential tool for farmers, and it would be nothing short of a disservice to the world if we didn’t understand, embrace and utilize the scientific innovation. Biotechnology is far from a silver bullet, but enhanced seeds that can boost agricultural productivity and improve nutrition are one of the tools necessary to help eradicate extreme poverty and global hunger.

Population growth is one of the greatest threats to global food security. If we hope to feed an expected population of 9.7 billion people by 2050, we need to increase agricultural productivity by 60 percent using less water, fertilizers and pesticides in the face of climate change. This means empowering smallholder farmers, particularly women, engaging the private sector, and scaling up proven technologies.

The fearful rhetoric embedded in the discussion of biotechnology is far removed from scientific reality and the life-saving possibilities of transgenic crops. The American Association for the Advancement of Sciences has stated: “The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.” The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences agree.

Many do not know that engineered crops can actually help support nutritious diets and improve our health. Golden rice, genetically engineered to include beta-carotene, can deliver vital nutrition to underserved populations. A single bowl of Golden rice can supply 60 percent of a child’s daily vitamin A requirement; vitamin A deficiencies are responsible for the deaths of more than 670,000 children under the age of five each year, globally. In the future, we will see other Vitamin A-enhanced crops, including bananas and cassava.

Genetically enhanced crops are also more resilient to dramatic weather patterns, more efficient in fighting pests and diseases, and can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They have been proven to increase yields up to 22 percent; farmers harvested more than 440 million tons more food since 1996 thanks to biotech crops. These aren’t just American farmers growing corn either. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications reports that in 2014 approximately 18 million farmers in 28 countries planted 448 million acres of biotech crops, which included corn, soybean, canola and cotton. A large majority of those farmers, 94 percent, are living in developing countries and working with limited resources. Planting crops with quality engineered seed that can withstand drought and save a farmer from economic ruin is not just a scientific breakthrough, it is a miracle.

On whichever side you stand in the controversial debate, nearly everyone can agree that hunger in the 21st century is horrible and preventable. Sustainable Development Goals, agreed upon by 193 nations in September of 2015, include the aim to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030. Achieving Zero Hunger, compared to the 795 million people who are food insecure today, is a noble goal. I believe in order for us to reach this goal, biotechnology and other scientific advances must be embraced as part of the solution.

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