Sustainable agriculture in the developed world has lent heavily on genetically modified crops - but is this the right way to go for feeding a planet of 8 billion people and rising.
Sustainable agriculture and the concept of global food security is facing many challenges in its attempts to feed a growing world population against the backdrop of climate change. Therefore, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) should be considered as a part of a multi-disciplined approach in tackling these issues, but any productivity gain shouldn’t come at the costs of ecosystem services, biodiversity or human health. With such pressure on our agricultural systems GMO has the potential of increasing yields and crop resistance to disease therefore they deserve the chance to be explored further through research and properly controlled studies (Royal Society 2009).
It is however also important to proceed with caution as the financial interest of the agro-industry is a clear motive to lobby for GMO use, whether for the public good or not. Indeed, any subsidies to promote GMO use could end up as an indirect financial transfer to large corporate players in the industry and support the continuation of inefficient practices (WWF 2005). Although there is potential for improvement, current studies from countries such as the USA and Spain looking at yields, cost of production and profitability for GMO crops are underwhelming and there are continued problems with co-existence with other farming techniques, especially organic production (WWF 2005).
In 2003, agrochemical worldwide sales were valued at US $ 26.7 billion (WFF 2005) and so we must always consider that scientists and reports may be influenced by third party interests and look deeper into who is funding research and academic work. For example, Syngenta are both contributors and on the review panel for the Royal Society article. Furthermore, the WWF as an activist organisation will generally sit on the side of environmental protection over economic well-being or scientific progress and so their interpretation of other studies may be influenced by this background.
Royal Society, 2009. Reaping the benefits. Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture. London: Royal Society. http://royalsociety.org/policy/publications/2009/reaping-benefits/ (Accessed 16thOctober 2019).
WWF, 2005. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): a danger to sustainable agriculture. Gland, Switzerland: WWF. http://.panda.org/downloads/.../gmosadangertosustainableagriculture.pdf (Accessed 16th October 2019).
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