Monday, March 19, 2007

Who benefits from GMO crops?

Someone asked, "who benefits from GM crops?"
My answer is: the public, the expanding population of the world.
And if I make my own question too, like "who benefits from organic crops?"
my answer is: the public, the expanding population of the world.

The Philippines alone for instance, population is expanding by 1.8 million people/year, net of death and migration. At this rate, we are creating the equivalent of Sweden's population every 5 years; or 1 Singapore every 2 years and 3 months. What is the population of Jordan, 5M? Then the Filipinos can create one Jordan every 2 years and 8 months!

We are not talking about population increases in China (100+ million/year, net of death), India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, and many other countries in the world.

We just have to continue producing food, whether by GM, or organic, or inorganic.
People will buy the food based on their budget and food preference.
Because the alternative to not consuming GM crops if supply of organic (and inorganic) crops is not enough, is... HUNGER.

Besides, based on my limited readings with literature by some local scientists here, GM crops are approaching organic production (minimal if not zero pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, for instance).

Our farm caretaker once told me that when he was young, about 40 years ago, the rice varieties during his father's time were tall, the grains were few, and harvest comes after 6 months, so he could plant only 1 crop a year. The rest of the year, the land's on fallow.

With the new varieties developed and commercialized in the 60s and 70s and he started farming himself, he was very happy because the rice varieties (like IR 42) were short, had plentier grains per stalk, and harvestable after 4 months, so that they could plant 2 crops per year; even 3 crops if irrigation is available during summer. In short, their incomes have increased.

Obviously, rice is among the most common GM crops, and there are hundreds, even thousands, of new varieties that have been developed through plant breeding and biotechnology. So my understanding is that with plant breeding and GM technology, scientists (and many GM companies) are forced to preserve as many varieties of old and "orig" plants for them to develop newer varieties based on certain needs and the environmental situation of their farmer-seed buyers.

Agri production should continue to expand. Some growers use only organic crops; others use traditional, inorganic crops that use a lot of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and so on. Others use GM crops which are developed by science and use cultural and planting practices of organic farming (ie, minimum if not zero chemical fertilizers and pesticides) because the new and specific varieties have been "engineered" to withstand certain pests and insects that use to prey on those crops.

So that ultimately, the public should be allowed to choose what crops they will buy based on their household budget and consumption preferences. Those who are economically well-off would tend to buy organic products which are generally priced higher than non-organic products. Those who have little money would buy cheaper but inorganic crops. Short-term savings in money in exchange for long-term health risks. And they may be aware of this, it's just that they cannot afford to choose a worse alternative, which is hunger and severe malnutrition.

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