Opposition to Genetic Modification

January 11, 2013

Interest groups often react too quickly to scientific advancement and discovery, creating a negative public perception that inhibits further research and development, say Henry I. Miller, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and Graham Brookes, an economist and co-director of the U.K.-based PG Economics Limited.

Take, for example, the strides that have been made in genetic modification (GM). To date, there have been immeasurable benefits derived from the use of genetic engineering in the use of crops. This includes things such as biotechnology and recombinant DNA technology to alter crops and other food sources to make them better.

GM has made possible pest resistant crops and higher yields, yet it continues to be attacked by lobbyists as being unsafe despite evidence to the contrary.

  • More than 17 million farmers in three dozen countries are using genetically modified (GM) crops.
  • There have been over a billion hectares of GM crops that have been cultivated and more than two trillions servings of foods with GM ingredients have been consumed in North America.
  • Furthermore, the amount of pesticide that is sprayed on crops has fallen by 393 million kilograms worldwide between 1996 and 2009.
  • In that same time period, the shift to biotech crops reduced carbon emissions by 17.6 billion kilograms.

In addition, the fact that GM crops require no-till farming techniques means that there is less soil erosion or agricultural runoff.

Because GM crops are more resistant to diseases and insulated from harsh weather conditions, there are several economic benefits that farmers can reap.

  • GM crops allow farmers higher yields at lower production costs.
  • For example, corn and soybean production have increased by 130 million and 83 million tons, respectively.
  • Because of this, global commodity prices have gone down, allowing larger, more nutritious food to be cheaper.

Despite all of this, opponents of GM foods continue to lobby against it with success. Policymakers have passed several rules and regulations that have slowed the progress farmers and scientists can make with such promising technology.

Source: Henry I. Miller and Graham Brookes, "The GM Reactionaries," Project Syndicate, December 31, 2012.

 

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