by Katelyn Duncan, Regional Agriculture Awareness Specialist
Earlier this week the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a comprehensive report on a science- based look at Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops. The report, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects, concludes that genetically engineered crops appear to be safe to eat and do not harm the environment. Although the study will serve as another source of science-based evidence pointing to GE crops being beneficial and safe for humans, it will definitely not end the highly polarized debate about GE.
On May 21st, activists from around the world will participate in the March against Monsanto in an effort to continue the negative back lash the corporation often receives due to their leadership in biotechnology and GE technology. As an agricultural producer, and a grower of GE canola, it is concerning to me that activists will march against a technology that has influenced modern food production so significantly. The debate often comes down to a small group of people who reject modern science and technology, and discount the benefits of GE breeding practices that result in benefits to farmers and consumers, as seen in lower cost of foods.
As an individual who has spent some time in rural areas of developing countries in Africa, the rejection of this modern science is disheartening. Three-quarters of the world’s hungry people live in rural areas, mainly in the villages of Asia and Africa. An estimated 146 million children in developing countries are underweight as a result of acute or chronic hunger. Although the report does not point to accelerated yield increases in the United States beyond the historical rate that crops have already been increasing at, the increase could conceivably be greater in developing countries, where yields are lower than in competing countries. This is in addition to the economic and environmental benefits that growing GE crops could potentially bring these regions. In countries where economic instability and dwindling soil health is an issue, the benefits of GE crops could be tremendous.
On a global scale, GE crops are highly underutilized in Africa and Asia in particular, areas where food is scarce and access to modern science is restricted due to government legislation. March against Monsanto claims to be marching for farmers who are against GE crops, but the reality is that in countries where GE crops are permitted and easily available, farmers are choosing to grow them.
The science says GE crops are safe. On March 21st, let’s counter the March Against Monsanto #marchMay21 hashtag with #MAMyths.