“Just look at the ever-growing world population… GMOs are the only hope we have of feeding the world!”
This statement is one of the most-repeated phrases in support of genetically engineered food. It’s typically backed by claims about GMOs “increasing yield, reducing pesticides, tolerating drought, and containing more nutrients.”
This article attempts to address the truth behind this “feeding the world” claim with a few brief facts.
Fact 1: here in the U.S., where vast tracts of land are devoted to agriculture, where the majority of this land is planted with GMO crops, where the world’s largest and most successful ag-bio corporation responsible for GMOs is based, one in six Americans is facing hunger. Monsanto’s “feed the world” mantra isn’t even succeeding in its own country.
Fact 2: the problem is not a lack of food—the world already produces more than enough food—the problem is poverty.
Fact 3: one in five U.S. children is living in poverty—giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania. View more recent poverty data here.
Fact 4: corporate control of food is dramatically increasing the cost of food. The chart at right represents the rising cost of corn, during the same timeframe that corn began to be genetically engineered, patented, and owned by huge ag-biotech companies like Monsanto.
Fact 5: the ever-increasing cost of food exacerbates poverty. As stated on the World Bank website (an organization dedicated to the global reduction of poverty), “Food price rises create macro vulnerabilities, particularly for countries with a high share of food imports and limited [physical] space, as well as overall global increases in poverty.”
Corporate control of seeds, patents, farmer contracts, and third world agriculture systems does not improve poverty. It improves corporate profit margins.
More profits > fewer employees > rising unemployment > less income + higher food prices = more poverty. While the problem is admittedly far larger than genetically engineered food, it’s clear that corporate control of our food system is not improving world hunger… instead, corporate control appears to be exacerbating it.
In the case of Monsanto and several of the other leading ag-bio corporations, their profits come from more than just seeds and crops: the vast majority of GMOs are engineered to withstand weedkillers like RoundUp, the sales of which have skyrocketed as weeds continue to evolve resistance to the chemicals. (Remember, most of world’s ag-bio companies were chemical companies before they “remade” themselves into “agriculture solution” companies).
Fact 6: GMO crops are not being used to “feed the world.” View a synopsis of what GMO corn is used for: the overwhelming majority is a) converted into a wide variety of additives and ingredients used in fast / pre-made / processed food, b) fed to animals raised for meat*—which is purchased primarily by middle and upper class families, c) converted into ethanol to fuel cars—also purchased primarily by middle and upper class families, and d) converted into fast food containers and utensils. None of these uses has any positive impact on world hunger.
*Grain-fed beef, pork and chicken are typically fed GMO grain, unless specifically raised as certified organic and/or 100% grass-fed.
Fact 7: The related claim about GMO crops bearing “higher yields” as a justification for feeding the world is also false. Study after study has proven that GMO crop yield is no greater than conventional crops, and in the case of soybeans, it’s less.
Causes include soil degradation due to the increased use of chemicals, increasing insect resistance to the crops that were genetically engineered to resist insects, and increasing weed resistance to weedkillers (which crops were genetically engineered to tolerate).
In summary: corporate control of food is not benefiting world hunger… it’s benefiting corporate profit margins.
*True price of food: the cost without tax subsidies (link to video).
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