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Are GMOs the Answer to World Hunger?

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 12/17/2013

Monsanto claims that their genetically modified food products are good for the environment and for people. However, their products prove to be difficult and expensive to produce, with little of the health benefits they claim.

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    GMOs: The Solution to World Hunger? Despite our many advances in science and agriculture, famine, hunger and starvation are still issues. The World Hunger Education Service (WHES) reports that the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (1) estimates the following:

    • In 2010-2012, 1 in 8, or 870 million people in the world are undernourished,
    • 852 million, or almost all of the undernourished live in developing countries, and
    • Half of the 10.9 million yearly child deaths can be attributed to poor nutrition.

    Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, have been touted as the solution to world hunger. But do they really live up to the hype?

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    The GMO Claim

    One of the biggest claims in support of GMOs came from Monsanto and its “golden rice", a genetically engineered strain they developed. A cross between daffodils and viruses, this new rice strain claimed to produce beta-carotene which converts to Vitamin A in the body. With 350,000 children going blind and almost a million children dying each year due to Vitamin A deficiencies, golden rice could be the answer the world has been looking for. Monsanto believed so much in the new rice that it pumped $50 million into a PR campaign, more than it put into the development of the rice (2).

    According to Monsanto, anti-scientist activists are holding the lifesaving food hostage. If more people understand the positive effects the new rice will have on world’s starving, then their development can rapidly increase.

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    The Truth about GMOs

    Despite the compelling claims by Monsanto, including its biggest shareholder Bill Gates, and other similar corporations, as well as Time Magazine’s “Grains of Hope" article on the new development, they are just that, claims. The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), an organization funded by the United Nations and World Bank, found the complete opposite of all claims made for GMOs’ effectiveness. IAASTD enlisted the help of 900 scientists and researchers to examine world hunger and GMOs who, through rigorous repeated study and analysis, found GMOs to not be a meaningful solution to the problem (3).

    The Union of Concerned Scientists, another large research organization, came to the same conclusion. According to this organization, not only do GMOs not increase yields over long durations of time, but they are a danger to the environment and human health and are extremely expensive to produce. In fact, the so-called “golden rice" cannot grow in the kinds of soil available to the very people its attempting to help. Moreover, pesticides, fertilizers (heavy use of them in fact), and large amounts of water, all expensive items inaccessible to underdeveloped nations, are the only way for this strain to grow effectively.

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    More Negative Effects

    Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Risk Assessment and Risk Management, a Norway-created group, found that GMOS may cause unintended direct adverse effects on biological diversity that include soil microbes, aquatic life, insects, and their food web dynamics (4). The organization even issued an “early warning" against GMOs and their ultimate negative effects on human health and the environment.

    According to all this research, not only are GMOs ineffective, they are ultimately unhealthy for consumption. However, despite the research and protests against Monsanto, the monopoly still wields a great amount of influence in the food and agriculture industry.

References

  • (1) http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm
  • (4) http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_21257.cfm
  • (2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-robbins/gmo-food_b_914968.html
  • (3) http://naturalsociety.com/gmo-crops-proven-to-be-ineffective-at-fighting-world-hunger/