Imagine a world without hunger. It’s difficult to do because since the beginning of human existence the struggle to survive has been a part of our lives. Even though we now live in large cities and we’ve managed to improve the quality of our lives immensely, thousands of people still die each day because of malnourishment.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genetic code is modified artificially by using modern biotechnology techniques. This procedure allows scientists to give the organism new features such as resistance to drought for plants. In other words we have the capacity to genetically engineer crops which are more resilient, easier to produce and most importantly yield more. According to statistics taken by PG Economics, a consultancy company that specialises in plant biotechnology, the increase in yield ranges from 10 to 50% in different types of seeds. This value is much higher than expected.
Now this might not seem very exciting, but it’s actually groundbreaking. These results become even more crucial once you take into account certain statistics. One of the major problems our world faces today is without a doubt over-population. The human species has more than doubled in number in the past 50 years. Also it’s a fact that arable land on earth is limited and scientists are concerned by the prospect of ensuring access to food 50 years from now. So over-population and the limitations of our earth are some of the main reasons for world hunger. The only reasonable solution to this problem that science has offered us so far is genetically modified crops, the only thing lacking is the will to invest in it.
Here lies our problem, there is a massive misinformation campaign surrounding the risks of GMOs. Very bold media statements have led to the false public conception that the consumption of genetically modified crops could lead to the contraction of fatal diseases such as cancer. However, thousands of studies have proven time and time again that genetically modified crops are perfectly safe for consumption. People are afraid that a mistake made in a laboratory by a genetic engineer will result in the outbreak of viral diseases. This is an unfounded fear because any food product goes through several food safety tests before it can receive approval from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and can be sold freely in the market.
Besides ensuring sustainability GMOs are also a great opportunity for economic prosperity. However, Europe so far has taken a very harsh stance against GMOs. Even if some countries want to grow a new genetically modified crop, anti-GMO countries can delay European-wide approval of it for years. Without a majority vote any crop that has already been through scientific safety checks, remains in a legal limbo until the European Commission approves it by default. This means that we could fall behind in the international agricultural market as the United States is making a smooth transition to genetically modified crops.
I realize that this is a controversial topic, especially considering all of the debate relating to it. Nevertheless, this controversy does not make it less interesting and relevant for us, young europeans with our eyes focused on a sustainable future. Yes, change is scary, but we should never let our fears obstruct us from recognizing and talking about one of the greatest technological advancements of our time. Therefore I open up the floor to you. Let your voices be heard, but base your opinion on true scientific facts rather than public conceptions. Whether you are for or against GMOs, I would highly encourage all of you to take part in this discussion. Because in the end, we are all looking at the same future.
By Yunus Derman (TR)