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How GMOs Can Help Us to Feed Our Growing Population

Michael Stebbins
July 22, 2019

A fresh new report from the World Resources Institute notes that GMOs and genetically modified food are going to be an important tool for feeding a global population that is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050.

The group warns that we need to accept and adopt new technologies if we are going to produce enough food for this growing population and that GMOs are one technology that will have to be part of the solution.  The report, co-issued by the World Bank, the UN Development Program and the UN Environment Program,  highlights several potential solutions to meet this challenge, and GMO crops and other genetic engineering techniques are key to many of these. The report points out that genetic modification saved the Hawaiian papaya population from a deadly virus, and says it may be able to do the same for potatoes in Uganda, soybeans in Brazil and tomatoes in Florida.

While not every recommendation in the report relates to GMOs, here are 5 of the 22 courses of action that line up with benefits that GMOs already currently provide:

  1. Reduce food loss and waste - there are GMO crops on the market today, such as non-browning apples and non-browning and reduced-bruising potatoes that already meet this goal. Learn more about how GMOs help to reduce food waste and loss in this GMO Answers Forbes post.

  2. Improve crop breeding - the very foundation of GMO technology is improving crop breeding. GMOs are researched, developed, and brought to market specifically to address a problem. Whether that is increased yield, drought-tolerance, disease-resistance, or to help farmers combat pests, GMOs are the definition of improved crops. Learn more about the science behind GMO research and development in this previous Biotech-Now blog post.

  3. Improve soil and water management - GMOs already have a positive impact on the environment, and soil and water management are key parts of that benefit. Learn more about how GMOs help improve soil health and water resources at the GMO Answers website.

  4. Link productivity gains with protection of natural ecosystems - GMOs already allow farmers to do more with fewer resources. Growing more on less land means more space for natural habitats and preserving biodiversity. Check out this video that shows how GMOs can  help biodiversity.

  5. Improve productivity and environmental performance of aquaculture - Overfishing of our oceans is already a known issue. Improving aquaculture is one way to help keep natural stocks in the ocean at necessary levels. One way sustainably farmed fish is the genetically engineered salmon that grows more quickly than a conventional salmon, using fewer resources and meeting demand more quickly. Developing this new salmon has required an improved aquaculture system. Learn nine things you need to know about GE salmon in this master answer on the GMO Answers website.



As Sarah Evanega with the Cornell Alliance for Science points out in a Bloomberg news story on the report, “We have to use all the tools that we have at our disposal. Genetic engineering isn’t going to be the only tool, but it’s a good one. To not use it is like asking a plant breeder to use an abacus instead of a calculator.”

To learn more about GMOs, please visit the GMO Answers website.