Gotham Grazer Blog

Shedding Light on Genetically Modified Crops

Are genetically modified crops fulfilling their ultimate goal - solving hunger?

According to The New York Times, the answer is no.  This article takes a closer look at the failures (and successes) of GMOs, and unpacks a lot of the misconceptions and controversies surrounding the industry.  

  Photo by Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times

Photo by Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times

The article compares crop yields and pesticide usage in Europe, where genetically modified seeds are outlawed, to North America, where genetically modified seeds are part of conventional farming methods. The results show that the U.S. and Canada have not seen any dramatic improvement in crop yields, while herbicide use has increased drastically:

"Since genetically modified crops were introduced in the United States two decades ago for crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, the use of toxins that kill insects and fungi has fallen by a third, but the spraying of herbicides, which are used in much higher volumes, has risen by 21 percent."

Such an increase in herbicide use has had noted effects on the environment, from the development of herbicide-resistant weeds to the pollution of groundwater.  Additionally, more herbicides means more toxic residues on our foods.  While many people argue that genetically modified crops are dangerous to humans, there is no scientific evidence that proves this; it is the over-use of pesticides, however, that has been shown to negatively impact human health.

What can we do?

When it comes to increasing yields, genetically modified crops are not getting the job done. And in any case, kicking production into high-gear on tired and depleted soils isn't exactly the most sustainable way to feed the rising population.  To truly address the issue of hunger, we need to adapt our cities and towns to be self-sufficient in crop production.  Abandoned lots, empty buildings, manicured lawns, and secure rooftops - such spaces exist almost everywhere, and they are the perfect places for gardens and greenhouses.  It's time to make locally grown food the solution!