Some of the most exciting innovation in environmental sciences is happening in the agricultural field. An increase in people (there’s 7 billion of us!) has been met by almost no increase in land, water or other resources. In an attempt to find a sustainable way to satisfy these immense needs, really exciting technology is emerging.
GMOs are an example of such technology. (For those of you that don’t know what GMOs are, check this out: http://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/) They help farmers produce more reliable and sustainable crops. A recent study conducted by Georg-August-University in Goettingen, Germany found that GMOs increased crop yields by 22%. When you consider the sheer amount of food we produce, this is incredible! This study also found that GMOs reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%. GMO crops that are pest resistant help to reduce the harmful ecological effects of many pesticides.
GMOs don’t only benefit the environment. Poverty and food insecurity go hand in hand. The greater and more reliable the yield, the more mouths we can feed.
Ok, so we know that GMOs are a step towards a more sustainable future. So why does my favourite brand of raisons boast that it is “GMO free”? And why do I see anti-GMO protests on the streets of Montreal?
Many people fear that this technology could become the stepping-stone to the creation of something inhuman or detrimental to the environment. This fear of the “slippery slope” can be eased with the use of wiser public policy. For many countries, regulatory laws were written in the 1980s. The legal definition of genetically modified simply doesn’t include some the incredibly advanced technology we are using today.
By no means, does this mean that you should grab your picket signs and hit the streets. On the contrary, further research will only continue to produce more effective agricultural techniques. Instead of shying away from GMOs, we must continue to support the industry and push for more inclusive laws that can encourage scientific advancement and increase public trust.
As our population continues to grow, we will increasingly struggle with ways to feed everyone. But, with continued research, we can hopefully, one day, reach complete global food security. You gotta love science!