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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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