For decades, the term “genetically modified organism” has sounded like something inherently inedible. But a loud new voice is replying that the world should eat up anyway.
In January, philanthropist Bill Gates emerged as a leading advocate of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. In his annual letter, he claimed that any conceivable plan to feed our growing population includes investment and development in GMOs. Gates and other proponents believe that innovation in GMOs produce plants with higher yields, less susceptibility to disease and drought, and more ability to adapt to global climate changes.
Opponents of the technology paint a different picture. Last week, farmers from across America and Canada convened in New York to protest against GMOs, claiming that they destabilize agricultural yields and markets, have yet to be proven healthy and mostly benefit only a handful of multinational corporations. Resistance to GMOs has been more effective in other parts of the world, most notably in Europe where consumers' "overwhelming opposition to the technology" has led some companies to completely suspend GMO sales on the continent, despite the outright backing of GMOs by the European Commission.
As technology develops and the world’s population continues to grow, the debate will also continue. Should we invest in GMO innovation? Are GMOs part of the problem, or the solution in 21st century agriculture and global food security?