Dr. Marc Van Montagu is Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium and is the co-recipient of the 2013 World Food Prize.
Dr. Van Montagu recently penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, “The Irrational Fear of GM Food.” In it, he writes,
“billions of people have eaten genetically modified food over the past two decades. Not one problem has been found.”
GM foods were first commercialized 17 years ago, “and not one problem has been documented.” Leading scientific research organizations – the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization – have attested to the safety of GM foods for human consumption.
In addition to his own knowledge and expertise, Dr. Van Montagu’s perspective is backed with years of scientific evidence refuting false accusations made against GM foods. He writes,
“It seems to me that much of the resistance to GM foods isn’t based on science, but may be ideological and political, based on fears of ‘corporate profiteering’ and ‘Western colonialism.’”
By 2050, experts predict our world population will have increased by one-third to 9.6 billion, begging the question; will we have enough food for everyone?
Dr. Van Montagu answers, stating that, “we should embrace an agricultural approach that combines the best features of traditional farming with the latest technology.”
You may find it surprising that GM crops cover nearly a quarter of the world’s farm land, raised by nearly 17.3 million farmers. Thanks to science, we now have herbicide-resistant and insect-resistant GM crops that allow for no-tillage farming, reduced soil erosion, and a 25% reduction in insecticide use.
Contrary to popular belief within the anti-GMO community, GM crops have never been shown to contribute to the development of human diseases, nor do they harm bees or butterflies. In fact, GM crops have been a godsend for starving and nutrient-deficient peoples living in regions of the world where certain crops previously failed to grow.
Dr. Van Montagu says advancements in GMO technology have been met with strong opposition from “the same thoughtful people who tend to dismiss climate-change skeptics as ‘anti-science.’” One has to wonder; why continue to combat GMO’s when studies prove their safety, time and time again?
Under strict government regulations, GM biotechnology “offers an unparalleled safety record and demonstrated commercial success.” Dr. Van Montagu worries that the industry may not reach its full potential, facing the “labeling” movement to single out modified food from other food on grocery store shelves. He says consumers simply do not know that nearly 60%-70% of all processed food contains GM foods.
From the horse-drawn plow to the GPS-guided combine, advancements in science and technology have radically improved the methods by which we plant and harvest food. Such technological developments have reduced the cost of food and made it more plentiful. But today, food industry milestones are going unnoticed, and the ones that garner attention have been met with hostility.
Dr. Van Montagu closes by saying,
“A good first step is for educated, scientifically literate people to avoid being taken in by the myths about genetically modified food. These innovations have too much potential to empower individuals and feed the world to be thwarted by falsehoods and fear-mongering.”
Skeptics will remain skeptics, but the question remains: thirty years from now, will we have enough food to feed the world?
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