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Sowing the Seeds of Discontent

June 21, 2010
Jan McGirk’s recent story in the Huffington Post about GM corn in Mexico does little more than fan the flames of fear regarding GM crops.

What, you might ask is the problem with this story?  Unfortunately, McGirk didn’t talk with either of the manufacturers of the GM Mexican corn.  This is certainly not an example of fair and balanced journalism.  So let’s set the story straight.

Agricultural biotechnology is a science that allows plant breeders to make precise genetic changes to place beneficial traits – such as pest resistance, disease resistance or herbicide tolerance – into plants.

Since the introduction of biotechnology-derived commercial crops in 1996, farmers have used this science to grow plants that yield more per acre with reduced production costs while being resistant to disease and pests and also beneficial to the environment.

In the near future, we’ll see crops that will be resistant to environmental stresses like drought, and crops that use soil nutrients more efficiently, boosting productivity in areas of the world with inadequate rainfall or poor soil. Scientists are also looking to use biotechnology to fortify some food plants with higher nutritional content and to produce pharmaceuticals in plants affordably and efficiently.

Biotech crops are sustainable, benefit the environment, are safe and are being adopted by farmers world-wide.  Acceptance of genetically modified crops isn’t just limited to farmers.  According to a recently-released International Food Information Council (IFIC) survey, an overwhelming percentage of consumers will choose foods that are produced through biotechnology based on environmental benefits and sustainable agricultural practices.

IFIC reported that consumers responded favorably to purchasing foods modified by biotechnology “to provide more healthful fats like Omega-3s (76 percent); to avoid trans fat (74 percent); or to make them taste better/fresher (67 percent)” while 73 percent of respondents would likely buy wheat-flour products that use biotechnology for sustainable production practices “to feed more people using fewer resources such as land and pesticides.”

With agricultural biotechnology one of the key benefits is that it allows us to produce enough food to feed the world.  According to Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, BIO’s Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture,  “The world population is nearly 7 billion people, and that number is expected to reach 9 billion in the next two to three decades.  Feeding and fueling a growing planet will require a 70 percent increase in agricultural productivity.  Biotechnology can help us boost production in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Regardless of what we disagree with, the need to feed the world’s constantly growing population is something we should all understand.