Robert Paarlberg’s “The World Needs Genetically Modified Foods” (op-ed, April 15) gets it exactly backward. The technology does not help the hungry—the majority of whom are farmers in the developing world. Why not? Because GMOs leave cash-poor farmers dependent on buying seeds, fertilizer and chemicals while providing uneven results, increasing weed resistance and undermining biodiversity. Almost all commercialized GMO seeds are limited to two types: Either they’ve been developed to resist a proprietary herbicide or engineered to express a specific insecticide. (No surprise, since the product development is led by agrochemical companies like Monsanto, MON +0.85%DuPont DD +0.70%and Dow.)
Meanwhile, evidence from some of the world’s most important institutions—from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to the World Bank—is clear: Agroecological methods outperform GMOs, especially during drought years, improve nutritional qualities of crops and benefit biodiversity and soil health, all without leaving farmers in debt and dependent on companies for ever-more expensive inputs.
Frances Moore Lappé
Small Planet Institute
Efforts to change the way foods are marketed in our country because of irrational fears of celebrity CEOs will have serious consequences in higher prices for all foods. The purpose of GMO technology is to lower production costs by reducing or eliminating costly inputs like agricultural chemicals. These savings will be lost if actions by anti-GMO activists increase food marketing costs.
As an agricultural economist (Auburn University), I am socially conscious and I have worked in charity food banks in the U.S. and abroad. Among the hungry people I have served, no one ever asked me for non-GMO food. Hungry people do not care about this information, only the well-fed do.
Mr. Paarlberg is correct in pointing out that GMO technology is a necessity to feed 6.4 billion people. We will rummage forests, destroy wildlife and natural beauty of nature by not using high-yield technology.
Look at us, it took 85 million years to evolve from the first mammals to homo sapiens. We are a genetically modified version of our ancestors, and so is the rest of the biology around us. We breed horses, cows, pigs and whatnot for a better breed without much of a problem. What is wrong with breeding or genetically modifying seeds for higher yields and healthier crops? Nature will do the genetic modification as it has done in the past, but at a very slow pace, and we will have a human catastrophe if we wait for nature to do it.
Amar Dave, M.D.
Mr. Paarlberg’s assertion that labeling genetically modified foods will have “surprisingly small” impacts is insulting to the majority of Americans clamoring for the right to know what processes their food has undergone before reaching their plates. Because GMO foods contain novel genetic combinations that do not occur naturally in our food system, the least that consumers deserve is that these foods are labeled that way in the grocery store. Even if processed-food companies decide to use non-GMO crops, labeling eventually must be required for animals fed GMO feed.
Consumers want transparency and it is only fair for biotechnology and food companies to provide the market with adequate information.
Food & Water Watch
A version of this article appeared April 24, 2013, on page A14 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: GMO Food Technology Doesn’t Help the Poor Very Much.