In less than a hundred years our global population has over tripled in size, leaping from two billion people in 1926 to just below 7 billion people in 2012. This huge boom in population has created a tragically unresolved demand for food. We simply do not have the means or infrastructure to feed this many people successfully, and the results are devastating. According to the UN, over 1 billion people are currently starving from malnutrition, most inhabiting third world countries.
Avoid it or not, this truth is a reality. So when a technological breakthrough in food promises a way of feeding these starving people—through the strategic use of Genetically Modified Foods--why do so many people oppose the idea with hot blooded resentment?
While we have genetically modified strands of seeds for centuries through the deliberate cross breeding of related plant varieties to produce better, more resilient plants, it is only in recent years that such a practice has been grossly corporatized. The meteoric rises of GMO monopolies such as the Monsanto corporation have created a controversial stir in the agricultural community, polarizing the industry into supporters and GMO haters.
The reasons to resent and hate the corporate GMOs are numerous. However, the best reason to hate Monsanto is their use of trade marking their seeds, which they refer to as the Technology Protection System, or “terminator” technologies. These
prevent crops from growing the following year from their own seeds, which ultimately forces the farmer to continuously buy their seeds from Monsanto.
In addition, any farmers who have not purchased Monsanto seeds, but are caught with them on their property are charged with copyright infringement, and often shutdown. In an ultimately uncontrollable ecosystem—scientists refer to it as Earth—farmers are often subject to freak gusts of wind, which often transplant seeds onto non GMO farms. Whether the farmer wanted the GMO seeds or not, they are punished just the same, and their crops’ ability to yield new plants is sometimes terminated through contact with the GMO seeds.
However, the GMOs have a fancy fan base. Bill Gates is a leading supporter of GMOs. The philanthropist, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given hundreds of millions of dollars to the world’s poorest people, has recently focused on utilizing GMOs in feeding the starving populations in Africa.
While his initiative will be entirely free for the farmers who participate in it—the nonprofit infrastructure will supply the seeds, fertilizer and pesticides--many anti-GMO activists are up in arms over the use of the controversial seeds, viewing such an initiative as a way to corporatize and manipulate the native people of Africa.
To make matters more controversial, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently bought more than $23 million dollars worth of Monsanto stock. Extreme skeptics view this partnership as a step towards a global food monopoly dominated by the GMO industry.
Ultimately, the debate is weighted on both sides. While feeding the world’s increasing population is no easy feat, forcing native farmers to depend on an ultimately capitalistic seed supply system can be seen as corrupt and immoral.
However, the reality is the leveraging of this technology could keep millions of people alive and fed, which on an emotional and humanitarian level, registers as a righteous and worthy cause, regardless of inflated corporate monetary gains.