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Are GM crops required for global survival?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created January 25, 2011 at 7:19 AM

Even though global population growth is slowing and will probably eventually reach stability, that will not happen until even more humans live on this Earth than now. Lately, I have been hearing much advertising in the media for GM crops being the only way we can successfully feed the upcoming population levels. Opinions?

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 28, 2011
at 07:25 AM

If we reduce too quickly, you have major probs with a lot of old people and not enough young people. Gotta try to find a balance.

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3

(3641)

on January 26, 2011
at 03:42 PM

another danger of the paleo diet being adopted by everyone! increased fertility! but yes, you are right 2 with some opting for none will stabilize, but if we want to reduce to a more sustainable level it would be better if we were at -1 and 0 combo.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:18 AM

Good point, short term huge yields may be obtained but the system would also be hugely vulnerable, especially if GM is contributing to the bee dieoff (although IMO pesticides are also a very likely candidate)

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:16 AM

Actually, two kids per couple is enough to stabilize the population in short order. Plus some of those kids will die of various causes and some couples will choose not to have kids or will be unable. We are actually rapidly approaching that due to industrialized nations already spawning below replacement level (due to a combo of choice and infertility probs)

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:31 PM

@michael k, I didn't vote you down. You may be right about GM crops, but you come across as a someone advocating a political agenda that goes beyond the answer to the question. Discussing politics here is tricky business, and may or may not be well-received.

655d884d3815063d001642a370ef0154

(379)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:01 PM

you're right and unfortunately there's no way to un-wikify it. my bad. though it's not a personal manifesto. it could be wrong or it could be right. it's not subjective — GM crops are either the right course or the wrong course. that was my stream-of-consciousness argument about why they're the wrong course. since people have voted it down maybe they could explain why, it might make things more interesting.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on January 25, 2011
at 02:43 PM

@michael k, RE your note at the end, since your post is obviously a personal manifesto of some sort, I believe it's inappropriate to make it a wiki. A wiki post openly invites revisions. It's bogus to make your post a wiki, then request that it be left intact.

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4 Answers

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1
A3bb2c70384b0664a933b45739bac32c

on January 25, 2011
at 05:55 PM

Supporting an overpopulated world is a complex issue. Saying that this method or that is the only way is shortsighted and naive. As others have already said, there are political, economical and environmental concerns to look at as well as logistics. For example; if we run out of fossil fuels without alternatives in place how do we get the produce to market? I believe that certain GM foods could be a part of a solution. In some places, like poor or drought stricken nations they may even be necessary. In first world countries, where we have more resources but areas of high unemployment, localization would be a better solution.

There should also be a stricter definition of Genetically Modified. Technically, most varieties of tomatoes, bell/chili peppers and corn are all GM. They were made by careful selection and cross breeding. The dangerous ones are those which use radiation or chemical processes to infuse genes from other plants or create mutations. I have even heard of using viruses to insert "desirable" genes into the seeds. No matter what the methods used to grow the crops should be more beneficial to the environment, IE the careful use of composting and manure as opposed to chemical fertilizers.

3
691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3

(3641)

on January 25, 2011
at 03:23 PM

This is my opinion/rant, which I think is what this question is looking for. Enjoy!

I think this question is interesting because one of the main reasons humans adopted agriculture I believe was population growth. Overpopulation seems to be the key to a lot of issues. As numbers grew and game became more scarce pressure increased to find alternate sources of foods. The adoption of agriculture compounded the speed of population growth since sedentary groups of humans didn't have to space out child births over a number of years since children no longer had to keep up with travel.

Now, a further abomination of agriculture in the form of genetic modification is being passed on as the only way to survive. GM crops may produce more on less inputs and such but I think it all still requires fossil fuel and some sort of land that can support plant growth. There is a lot less of both than we think to support the huge population of the world if growth continues. Sadly, unless we curb overpopulation by having only one kid or less, we are just going to continue to ravage earth's resources until we all starve.

We exceeded our ecological carrying capacity long ago and now we are just running on fossil fuels. http://dieoff.org/page13.htm

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:16 AM

Actually, two kids per couple is enough to stabilize the population in short order. Plus some of those kids will die of various causes and some couples will choose not to have kids or will be unable. We are actually rapidly approaching that due to industrialized nations already spawning below replacement level (due to a combo of choice and infertility probs)

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3

(3641)

on January 26, 2011
at 03:42 PM

another danger of the paleo diet being adopted by everyone! increased fertility! but yes, you are right 2 with some opting for none will stabilize, but if we want to reduce to a more sustainable level it would be better if we were at -1 and 0 combo.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 28, 2011
at 07:25 AM

If we reduce too quickly, you have major probs with a lot of old people and not enough young people. Gotta try to find a balance.

1
Medium avatar

on January 25, 2011
at 07:37 PM

Quite the opposite, as GM strains have resulted in a strong narrowing in the available number of species/strains of our crops. Even if you insist on eating grain, there's no way that 2 types of a patented grain with the rest extinct are better than 20 types of heirloom grains, even with apparently huge yields.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:18 AM

Good point, short term huge yields may be obtained but the system would also be hugely vulnerable, especially if GM is contributing to the bee dieoff (although IMO pesticides are also a very likely candidate)

0
655d884d3815063d001642a370ef0154

on January 25, 2011
at 08:51 AM

GM crops are not the answer. We do however need to radically rethink the global food system. Food production needs to be hyperlocal and deeply integrated with the rest of the ecological system in order to be robust and sustainable and productive in a rapidly changing world. There is no other way.

GM crops imply centralized/corporate control (=loss of autonomy, culture, and livelihoods), financialization and subjection to the market logic (=extreme price volatility, insecurity, and lack of access), mono-crop systems (=vulnerability to climatic and other changes), and a lot more unfavorable sh*t.

Despite what you hear, there are also serious questions being raised about the health implicaitons of GM agriculture (see here: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers).

Localized/decentralized agroecological farming methods yield better productivity and more importantly better social outcomes like poverty reduction, self-sufficiency, community self-determination, etc...

I think this topic is of vital importance to those of us who consider ourselves part of the 'evolutionary health' movement. It's crucial that we get educated about broader issues relating to food and agriculture ??? the basic theoretical knowledge that we ought to sustain ourselves according to our evolutionary-ecological nature must be extended ??? socially and globally. The political-economic implications must be brought into play. By that I mean we need to expand our thinking re: evolutionary health beyond its role in our personal health/longevity or performance-enhancing regimen. It has to begin to inform a political-economic movement against the dystopic world-vision of the Monsanto's and ConAgra's, and for sustainable, robust, and ecologically-conscious systems that promote human wellbeing as opposed to the corporate bottom-line.

Industrial agriculture is an ongoing fatal mistake: it contributes to the unfolding environmental catastrophe (global climate disruption, biodiversity depletion, nitrogen cycle disruption, etc) and it destroys human health and livelihoods. GM agriculture is simply the extension and deepening of the logic of "technologized" agriculture. It's an unsophisticated and counterproductive way of approaching the problem of food system sustainability.

I'd analogize GM crops to the use of pharmaceutical drugs to blunt the symptoms of a disease that could and should be cured via changes diet/exercise/lifestyle. A vanishingly slim group of people profit from this model, so it's perpetuated, while the public suffers. The same goes for the problem of global hunger and food insecurity ??? they're symptoms of much deeper social pathologies that must be addressed or we're f*cked.

For now here is some on-topic suggested reading that looks at stuff in a more positive light:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=35105&Cr=food+production&Cr1

http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/to-alleviate-world-hunger-less-is-more/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/13/world-hunger-small-scale-agriculture

to download the intro to the report discussed in that second article, go here: http://cl.ly/3G0G2Z1A2I1q0F3I3H19

Worldwatch is extremely well-regarded and produce top-notch research. That 2011 flagship report, just released, is probably the best summary you'll find of the latest thinking in global food-system sustainability.

if you want to buy the whole thing you can do so here: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/State-of-the-World-2011/ (I have no relationship to Worldwatch)

Anyways thanks for bringing up this question. This kinda stuff needs to be on our radar.

NOTE: I made this a wiki if people want to add links to other studies/articles about the benefits of agroecological approaches over GM/industrial approaches. this probably goes without saying but pls leave the rest of the message intact. thanks and I'm looking forward to other peoples' comments!

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on January 25, 2011
at 02:43 PM

@michael k, RE your note at the end, since your post is obviously a personal manifesto of some sort, I believe it's inappropriate to make it a wiki. A wiki post openly invites revisions. It's bogus to make your post a wiki, then request that it be left intact.

655d884d3815063d001642a370ef0154

(379)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:01 PM

you're right and unfortunately there's no way to un-wikify it. my bad. though it's not a personal manifesto. it could be wrong or it could be right. it's not subjective — GM crops are either the right course or the wrong course. that was my stream-of-consciousness argument about why they're the wrong course. since people have voted it down maybe they could explain why, it might make things more interesting.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:31 PM

@michael k, I didn't vote you down. You may be right about GM crops, but you come across as a someone advocating a political agenda that goes beyond the answer to the question. Discussing politics here is tricky business, and may or may not be well-received.

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