Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Can genetic engineered food solve food shortages?

A Green Revolution

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, April 25, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Food: Today's headlines are filled with Americans expressing their fears of food shortages and frustration with spiraling grocery prices. As part of the solution, it's time to give genetically modified crops a try.



Read More: Science & Technology

There's much resistance to overcome, however. In the fall of 2006, Friends of the Earth publicly asked governments in the hungry African countries of Ghana and Sierra Leone to recall American food aid that contained genetically modified rice.

Four years earlier, when southern Africa was tormented by famine, the U.S. offered 540,000 tons of genetically modified grain.

Though the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 14 million Africans, including 2.3 million children under 5, were at risk of starvation, leaders in the region rejected the food.

One, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, called it "poison."

Had Mwanawasa been listening to environmentalists from rich nations too much? Progress-phobic activists have campaigned hard against genetically modified, or biotech, crops. They call them "frankenfood" and fret about their risks and "unnatural" character.

Destruction of property — from hazmat-suit-wearing Greenpeace mobs trampling a field of genetically engineered plants in Britain during the 1990s, to radicals destroying crops more recently at a California research center — is just another part of the crusade.

There's no evidence that biotech foods, which are some of the most thoroughly tested products in history, are harmful.

Humans have been safely altering their food sources for 10,000 years, cross-breeding livestock and agriculture. Genetically modified crops are part of this advance. Yet opposition remains, fueled by ignorance and hysteria.

The hostility is irresponsible, particularly in a world that is dealing with man-made food shortages and could use biotech plants, which yield far more food per acre than conventional or organic crops. After four decades of increased use of genetically engineered crops — from 1950 to 1990 — the world grain harvest went from 692 million tons to 1.9 billion tons on roughly the same amount of acreage.

In this nation, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization, corn production increased by 33% from 1996, the first year a biotech variety was commercially planted, to 2007; soybean yields increased during that same time by 16%.

More than a half-century ago, hero-scientist Norman Borlaug kicked off the Green Revolution, which has done more to relieve world hunger than any environmental group or left-wing nongovernmental organization.

Instead of chasing "academic butterflies," Borlaug, a geneticist and plant pathologist, chose a more practical goal: feeding people. Among his many achievements was the development in the 1960s of wheat varieties that had increased yields of 70%.

"We have the technology to double or triple food production," says Borlaug, who won a Nobel Prize in 1970. "I've been in the field for a long time, and I believe genetically modified food crops will stop world hunger."

Genetically modified plants can produce bigger harvests because they can be engineered to resist pests, diseases and drought. This is especially important in nations where half of what is planted is often destroyed by pests and disease.

The maturation process of genetically modified crops is faster, which means food can be put in empty stomachs sooner. Biotech crops also can be genetically fortified with proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to improve nutrition.

Americans daily eat 1 billion servings of food containing genetically modified ingredients. About 60% of food found in grocery stores is made from engineered crops. The number of acres sown with biotech plants has passed 280 million in 23 countries by 12 million farmers — 90% of whom are resource-poor farmers in developing nations, says the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Yet not a single death or sickness can be blamed on biotech foods.

We have the means to keep a hungry Third World sated, grocery store shelves stacked full and bodies everywhere richly nourished.

There's a grand opportunity for someone to take the lead on this.

How about a president who has but a few months left in office and nothing to lose politically from starting the next Green Revolution?


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