The campaign against genetically modified crops is holding back the developing world from more accelerated growth, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Activists in the developed world have worked hard to fight GMOs in both the West (19 European nations recently restricted GM imports after Brussels allowed for an “opt out”) and in the developing world (especially in Africa). Fear-mongering in the developing world has lead to a number of bans that prevent those countries from capitalizing on the higher yields GM crops provide, but as the ITIF report explains, bans in the developed world also hurt poorer countries that might otherwise export those crops to the West. From the ITIF report:
Campaigns against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), originating primarily in Europe, have created significant obstacles to the development and adoption of genetically modified crops . . . [The campaigns] disproportionately hurt those nations with the greatest need for more productive agriculture—particularly the developing nations of sub-Saharan Africa. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) estimates that the current restrictive climate for agricultural biotech innovations could cost low- and lower-middle-income nations up to $1.5 trillion in foregone economic benefits through 2050. In short, anti-GMO activists have erected significant barriers to the development of the poorest nations on earth. [. . .]
[GMO] restrictions lower farmers’ productivity and raise food prices—not just in the countries where the campaigns originate, but in nations that avoid GMO crops so they can export to countries with policies banning or limiting GMOs. Experience and data show that crops improved through biotechnology provide significant benefits for farmers, and restrictions on biotech crops slow the growth of agricultural productivity. This is particularly acute in low-income nations where farmers have less ability to mechanize production and where biotech-improved seeds offer a low-priced way to boost yields and rural incomes. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, annual farm household income in 2012 was approximately $3,000.
GM opposition is the most foolish stance taken by the modern environmental movement, and that’s saying something. Not only can GMOs help feed more people with less inputs and on less land (which would help foster biodiversity), but they can also do so in more extreme weather—the kind greens promise climate change is bringing. And per this report, GM crops can also foster faster growth in the developing world.
Their benefits are manifest, so what reason can environmentalists possibly offer up to dismiss them out of hand? Many would tell you that these crops are unsafe, but scientific studies have exposed that claim to be baseless. Most greens would then fall back to the feeling that genetically modifying crops is somehow “unnatural,” despite the fact that we’ve been modifying crops (perhaps not in labs, but certainly through selective growth) for millennia. And, if the only argument you have against a technology that could boost global food security and help the planet’s poorest move out of poverty quicker is some glib line about fearing “frankenfoods,” perhaps you ought to reevaluate your position. GMOs can do a tremendous amount of good for the world, if only greens would get out of their way.