Debate on the merits and demerits of genetically modified crops (GMO) continues to rage as both sides of the divide smack at each other. According to a New York Times article published on October 10, the controversy surrounding GMO crops goes further than the not-backed-up fear that the crops are unsafe to eat. The author, Danny Hakim reckons that the real problem lies in the findings showing genetically modified crops have not increased crop yields in the US and Canada or led to the reduction in the use of chemical pesticides. The author adds that the use of herbicides in the US has increased substantially and even permeated to so called modified crop varieties such as cotton, soya beans and corn.
According to the author, the very promise to grow GMO’s was built on the premise that it would create pest and weed resistant crops that would produce abundant yields and ease world hunger. Danny acknowledges that while US and Canada quick to embrace GMO, Europe largely rejected the idea when it was introduced some 20 years ago. This fact demonstrates serious loopholes in technology in spite of years of research and trials. A report released by the UN has also not shown any significant food per acre yields in the US or Canada when pit against Europe. These findings are backed by a new report released by the National Academy of Sciences showing little evidence that US crop yields had increased compared to that of traditional food crops.
The New York Times article has elicited an equal measure of rebuttal from farmers, research organizations and other interest groups. According to a report published on Genetic Literacy Project website by Professor Stuart Smyth of the University of Saskatchewan department of agriculture, GMO food crops have numerous benefits which the NYT article has failed to point out. These insurmountable benefits to the environment, including a 35% reduction in pesticide use as well as soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions and use of fossil fuels. Professor Stuart also painted a different picture showing the dangers of not embracing the technology. He cites India, where cotton farmers have lost up to 60% of their yields as a result of insect infestation while those who grow GM cotton have seen 40% reduction in pesticide use.