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Feeding the Future
Why We Need GMOs

A study published in the journal Nature earlier this week found that “extreme weather” decimated global cereal crops (think grains, not Lucky Charms) over the past fifty years. Between 1964 and 2007, drought, extreme heat, and extreme cold weather cut yields of these important food crops by 9-10 percent, and the effects of these events was between 8 and 11 percent more pronounced in the developing world.

If this study is accurate, this isn’t just a history lesson. Climate scientists tell us that we’ll be seeing more extreme weather in the future as a result of rising surface temperatures. This new research suggests that these events could pose a significant challenge to global food security, an issue only growing in importance as our total population continues to swell.

So are we doomed, then? Hardly. Scientists have already spent decades working on developing crops capable of thriving in wider temperature ranges and more resistant to drought. By modifying genes, researchers have found ways to increase crop yields even in more extreme environments, a technology seemingly tailor-made for helping to solve growing problems with food security in a world with a changing climate. And, as Reuters reports, drought-stricken Africa is starting to come around to GMOs:

Perceptions are shifting, with Burkina Faso in West Africa, and lately Sudan having started to grow GM cotton commercially, Getachew Belay, an African expert on GM crops told Reuters. “Historically, Africa has been a laggard to accept new agricultural technologies. For GM crops, much of the problem lies in the perception, exaggerated fear and conflicting messages sent to policy making,” said Belay. […]

[L]ast month, Zambia’s Higher Education Minister Michael Kaingu told parliament his country was embracing GM crops. “We recognize that modern biotechnology has advanced worldwide and, as a nation, we cannot afford to ignore the benefits of this technology. We are alert and prepared to deal with possible adverse risks,” said Kaingu.

GM crops can be of use anywhere there’s arable land, but they’re especially valuable in the developing world where, this new study concluded, extreme weather has an outsized effect. But a negative public perception and rampant misinformation remain the technology’s biggest obstacles. Studies have repeatedly shown GMOs to be safe, and the quasi-science peddled by misguided environmentalists has wilted under closer scrutiny.

The technology is there, the science says it’s safe, and all that remains is a PR battle. This is a fight with massive consequences, one that will affect how future generations feed themselves, and the modern green movement finds itself on the Luddite, anti-science side of the fence. Somehow environmentalists don’t see the irony of heaping scorn on those who question the settled state of climate science while they themselves ignore scientific consensus so that they might continue their crusade against a technology they somehow view as unnatural.

If greens had as good ideas for the well-being of future generations on this planet as they claim to, they would be GMO’s biggest cheerleaders of all. Instead, they’re setting humanity back by actively campaigning against one of our best tools for adapting to a changing climate. Anti-GMO activists are the equivalent, on the left, of climate deniers, but they don’t take nearly as much heat for their position.

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  • Andrew Allison

    “who question the settled state of climate science” would be better phrased as “who question whether climate science is settled”. The former could be read as the science being settled, which it clearly is not.

  • Gary Hemminger

    Burt Rutan and many others have shown that there is no evidence of more extreme climate over the last hundred years. Whomever wrote this article really needs to watch this Burt Rutan video. He presents the data showing no increase of extreme weather of the last decades.

  • Andrew Allison

    There has been no increase in extreme weather events; what has increased is the cost of the damage wrought. The rational response to this would be to stop blathering about AGW and devote time and energy to building defenses, ranging from GMO crops to flood control, and to stop building (worse yet, rebuilding) in threatened areas. The Earth is about 0.8 degrees warmer than it was 100 years ago, and sea levels are inevitably (slowly) rising as a result. Deal with it! The problem with the Church of AGW is twofold: first, its efforts are misdirected and second, even if we could control climate, it would take a very long time to bring the temperature down and there will be a lot of flooding in the interim. Meanwhile, increased CO2 and temperature are increasing crop yields and other plant life (all of which represents carbon extraction).

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “Climate scientists tell us that we’ll be seeing more extreme weather in the future as a result of rising surface temperatures.”

    If surface temperatures do rise, and this isn’t a given according to satellite temperature data (compared to the obviously manipulated data of surface temperature readings), I doubt the “extreme weather” the Climate Scientists (read “the lying environmental activists”) are predicting. After all their climate models and weather predictions have “Always” been WRONG, why would anyone assume they would get it right now, with such a track record of epic failure? Even the historical evidence is against them, with the medieval warm period seeing the colonization of Greenland and the growing of grapes and making of Wine in Moscow. This means that warmer weather will both extend the growing season and the growing regions. Both of these facts will make for greater production of food. In addition, increasing Carbon Dioxide, which is the primary plant food, also increases plant productivity (~15% at the moment), as well as reducing plants water needs making them more drought resistant and extending their growing regions into drier areas.

  • iconoclast

    “and the modern green movement finds itself on the Luddite, anti-science side of the fence. ”

    Of course. Otherwise greens would have to be much more skeptical of the quasi-science of AGW.

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