GMOs or No GMOs — Is That Really the Question?

A quick review of some recent events shows public opinion saying no to genetically modified food. The USDA’s establishment of a voluntary certification process to label foods free of GMOs, worldwide protests against Monsanto, and Chipotle’s announcement to remove GMOs from their food menu are just a few examples.

A recent Pew survey leads to the same conclusion, finding that while 88 percent of scientists agree GM foods are safe to eat, only 37 percent of the public believes this to be the case.

The highly polarized GM debate too often devolves into good vs. evil, or corporate vs. small and organic farmers. The barrage of information and misinformation out there makes it difficult for people to separate fact from fiction and to think about the use of genetic technology on a case-by-case basis, as we should, rather than as an all or nothing proposition, as it is often presented. It also obscures a much more critical question about food security and the future of agriculture.

Are global crops (GM or not) diverse enough?

The answer is no. More than 10,000 plants have been cultivated for food over the course of human history, yet the world largely relies on less than 1 percent of that diversity to meet 90 percent of all global food needs, and only three crops (wheat, corn, and rice) to meet nearly 60 percent of global food demands. And among those few crops – whether they are genetically modified or not – increasingly smaller amounts of genetic diversity are utilized.

So if our major crops have served human civilization well for thousands of years, what’s the problem?

It leaves global food production vulnerable to major crop failure. While there are many instances of such failures, including the <a target="_blank" —> Read More