Are GMOs the Answer to Global Food Security?

I want to preface this article by saying that I'm playing the devil's advocate here. I personally don't believe that the proliferation of GMOs will provide a sustainable solution to our global food issues, and don't present a responsible, environmentally sustainable option. But there are a lot of people out there who do think that the further development and widespread use of GMOs is the only way to address the food needs of the future. In the wake of food riots in Northern Africa and other  areas, one is forced to think twice about the need for major innovation in food production in response to the mounting global food crisis.

According to many scientists, researchers, and government representatives, a perfect storm is brewing that will result in a major global food shortage in the coming years (not to mention energy and water crises.) In a recent article in the UK's Guardian, population expert Sir John Beddington said that in the face of such a crisis, we now have an ethical and moral responsibility to employ whatever technology available to tackle the issue and produce more food. He believes that GMOs hold the key to addressing such an issue. For instance, pest resistant crops are necessary to reduce the amount of food lost before harvest due to bug damage, a loss that we won't be able to afford in the future.

While this familiar assertion that GMOs are absolutely key to the future of food and agriculture on a global scale is discouraging for many sustainable agiruclture advocates for various reasons, Beddington's arguement was heartening in other ways. He does not see GM crops as the only solution, but rather an important piece of the bigger puzzle, just as crucial as changing our patterns of consumption, better protecting other food sources like fisheries, and sustainable conservation of the environment. It will need to be a wide array of approaches and methods to address such a multi faceted and far-reaching problem.

This is a monster, and one that we can't ignore. Whether our leaders choose to take the GM route or are offered a better, more sustainable solution, we must figure out how to grow more food with less of an impact on the environment. Sustainable farmers: rise to the challange! Can we figure out ways to address both environmental and hunger needs using sustainable, non-GMO methods? It's a tall order, and will mean re-structuring and entire globabl food system (yikes!), but I think there just might be a chance!

photo credit: chicagoist