Dear Friends and Colleagues

GM Crops Won't Feed the Hungry, But Agroecology Will

A recent journal paper entitled "A Risky Solution for the Wrong Problem: Why GMOs won't Feed the Hungry of the World" concludes that the basic problem with a supply-side solution to global hunger, involving the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, is that it does not address the issue of food access for the poorest of the poor.

The principal GM crops in the world today are soybeans, maize, cotton, and canola. Most of these GM crops are not consumed directly, but are used as animal feed (soybeans, maize, and cotton byproducts), a sugar substitute (high-fructose corn syrup), vegetable oil (canola), or fiber (cotton). In wealthier countries, farmers are finding that GM insect-resistant Bt crops do not resolve the problem of pest populations developing pesticide resistance. They also do not avoid the broad-spectrum pesticide problem, wherein Bt not only harms the targeted pest population, but other non-target organisms. Finally, there are growing concerns about gene escape from herbicide-resistant crops to other crops and weeds.

In poorer countries, the most widely used GM crops today are controlled by corporate interests and their cost is too high for the poor. Investing in GMO-seed technology represents a significant financial risk for many small famers in variable rainfall environments, let alone the volatility of markets where farmers must sell all or part of their harvest if they are to cover their input costs.

The article states that increasing overall food production is not the problem; it is how to help the poorest farmers improve production and avoid unnecessary financial risk. It recommends agroecology as a viable approach to achieving this. By smartly capitalizing on interactions within agroecosystems, farmers may be able to improve yields and manage pest problems through improved intercropping and agroforestry combinations, as well as more tightly integrated crop and livestock systems. Unfortunately, funding for work in this area is very limited, probably because agroecological approaches are unlikely to generate the profits derived from the GMO non-solution to global hunger.

The article can be accessed at:

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