“Something approaching a billion people are hungry, a number that’s been fairly stable for more than 50 years, although it has declined as a percentage of the total population. ‘Feeding the world’ might as well be a marketing slogan for Big Ag, a euphemism for ‘Let’s ramp up sales,’ as if producing more cars would guarantee that everyone had one. But if it worked that way, surely the rate of hunger in the United States would not be the highest percentage of any developed nation, a rate closer to that of Indonesia than of Britain. The world has long produced enough calories, around 2,700 per day per human, more than enough to meet the United Nations projection of a population of nine billion in 2050, up from the current seven billion. There are hungry people not because food is lacking, but because not all of those calories go to feed humans (a third go to feed animals, nearly 5% are used to produce biofuels, and as much as a third is wasted, all along the food chain).”
– Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times, in an article, “How to feed the world”

“[GMOs] haven’t actually proven anything yet in terms of increased yields, as far as any of the major food crops are concerned… I don’t really see any proper use for GMOs, now or even in the future. I think that the solutions for problems with agricultural food security lie elsewhere – not in the seed or GMO seeds in particular… The fact of life is that right now, we produce enough food for 14 billion people. We lose a lot in pre- and post-harvest. In the developed countries in particular, we produce more food than is required. In developing countries, we under-produce and that’s not because we need GMOs, that’s because those countries have bad agronomic practices, farmers don’t have the right information on when to plant and how to best manage their farms. It’s an issue of more and better information to farmers in the developing countries.”
– Dr Hans Herren, president of the Millennium Institute (Washington, DC, USA) and co-chair, International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology, (IAASTD), a UN-, World Bank-, and WHO-sponsored project on the future of farming involving more than 400 experts from across the world2

“A billion starve because the wrong food is produced in the wrong places by the wrong means by the wrong people – and once the food is produced, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has pointed out, half of it is wasted. The UN demographers tell us that although human numbers are rising the percentage rise is going down and should reach zero by 2050 – so the numbers should level out. Nine and a half billion is as many as we will ever have to feed – and we already produce 50% more than will ever be needed. The task, then, is not to increase output, but to produce what we do produce (or even less) by means that are kinder to people, livestock, and wildlife, more sustainable, and more resilient.”
– Colin Tudge, biologist, three-time winner of the Glaxo/ABSW Science Writer of the Year Award, and co-founder of the Campaign for Real Farming3

“Who wants to buy GM crops or GM-containing foods? Well, no one, actually. When was the last time you saw people protesting to demand the right to eat GM foods? Why would they, when essentially all of the GM land on the planet is sown to crops modified with just two traits – herbicide tolerance and Bt (endotoxins that target specific kinds of insect pests) – fitted to four industrial crops – corn, soy, canola, and cotton – none of which are directly human consumable? Despite all the tantalizing promises that GM proponents offer – in the pipeline, just around the corner – what has GM actually delivered?  After 20+ years, governmental advocacy on an unprecedented scale, and billions of dollars of taxpayer funding in Canada alone, commercialized GM today consists almost entirely of just these two traits. A ‘GM variety’ is a conventionally bred variety that has been fitted with transgenes conveying either or both of herbicide tolerance and Bt. The remaining tens of thousands of genes in a modern crop variety – the ones conferring high yield, drought tolerance, and all other valued traits – are the result of conventional breeding – not GM.”
– Dr E. Ann Clark, retired professor, Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada4

From the day they were launched, GM crops have been promoted as a way of increasing food production and of solving world hunger at a time when the population is expected to increase. But do they offer any real solutions? In this final chapter we examine some of the more common claims made about the role of GM crops in feeding the world.

References

  1. Bittman M. How to feed the world. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/opinion/how-to-feed-the-world.html. Published October 14, 2013.
  2. Sherman M. Q & A: Hans Herren on Sustainable Agriculture Solutions. GMO Inside. http://gmoinside.org/q-hans-herren-sustainable-agriculture-solutions/. Published April 9, 2014.
  3. Tudge C. The founding fables of industrialized agriculture. Independent Science News. http://www.independentsciencenews.org/un-sustainable-farming/the-founding-fables-of-industrialised-agriculture/. Published October 30, 2013.
  4. Clark EA. Reality check on “Overwhelming number of farmers favour the use of GE crops.” GMWatch. http://gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2014/15317. Published February 20, 2014.