One of the main arguments in support of genetically modified foods is that they are the best option to feed the world’s growing population. Without this remarkable technology, the earth will run out of resources and starvation will become endemic.
That is the question John Robbins tries to answer in the above-linked article he wrote for the Huffington Post. The article was actually published back in 2011, but I just stumbled across it last week and thought it was worth sharing.
Robbins focuses on genetically modified rice, so-called “Golden Rice,” that is altered to produce beta carotene. The companies who engineered it claimed that this miracle food would prevent millions of deaths and instances of blindness in the developing world. Pretty cool, no?
The problem is that the rice failed to live up to the hype. First of all, it cannot grow in the regions that actually need it. The climate and soil isn’t right. It also requires expensive fertilizers and pesticides and A LOT of water which most third world farmers can’t afford or don’t have access to. On top of all that, to get enough beta carotene to make it worthwhile “an 11-year-old boy would have to eat 27 bowls of golden rice a day.”
The reality is that people don’t starve because there isn’t enough food to go around. They starve because they don’t have access to food. Go to any grocery store or restaurant and ask how much food gets tossed each week. Or just pay more attention to how much you throw out each week. Obviously I’m not saying you should send your scrap food to Africa! That wouldn’t work. But the problem isn’t quantity; it’s distribution. We don’t need genetically modified rice to solve world hunger. We need to stop and ask why tomatoes from Mexico and quinoa from Bolivia are being shipped to the US when those nations can’t feed their own people? And why thousands of acres of farmland here in the US are devoted to corn and soy rather than growing our own domestic tomatoes and quinoa?
I also found it interesting that Monsanto and cohorts spent $50 million on the golden rice ad campaign. That’s more than they spent on developing the rice in the first place. Imagine if that money had been spent on irrigation projects in sub-saharan Africa. Or given as microloans to start-up farmers in Southeast Asia. At the end of the day, Monsanto’s main objective isn’t solving world hunger. It’s making money. They invest millions of dollars in developing GM crops so they can patent them and recoup their investment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that desire. It’s the goal of any business. The goal here at Wyebrook is to be financially self-sustaining. But don’t let a snazzy PR campaign fool you. “Despite the PR, Monsanto’s goal is not to make hunger history. It’s to control the staple crops that feed the world.”
It’s a short article and well worth a read.