December 20, 2013

Genetically modified crops and the sustainable food movementGenetically modified crops {GMOs} are one of the most controversial aspects of modern food production. Advocates for farm-to-table and sustainable food production have been campaigning for natural sourcing practices, and more consumers are making the move toward eating healthier, more environmentally friendly products. But the increase in the use of genetically modified crops seems to fly in the face of those trends.

What are GMOs?
In order to meet the rising food demands of a rapidly growing world population, large food producers have increasingly turned to GMOs as a way to cultivate greater quantities of fruit, vegetables and grains. To do so, big agribusinesses use strains that have been designed in labs and not only grow faster with more abundant yields, but they are also supposed to be more resistant to pestilence.

One example of the effect GMOs can have on crops production comes from the United States corn harvest. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 2013 corn harvest will be the largest on record, producing approximately 14 billion bushels. And 98 percent of that crop will have been grown from GMO seeds.

There have been several studies conducted over the 20 years GMOs have been in use to determine if they could be in any way harmful to people, animals or the environment. So far, there haven’t been any negative findings, according to the International Business Times.

Public backlash
Despite those assurances, people around the world have been understandably reluctant to embrace GMOs. Part of that hesitation comes from the growing concern among consumers worldwide about the amount of chemicals and other unnatural additives in food and other products, while others are worried that the tests are being primarily carried out by the agriculture businesses that manufacture the GMOs. There is also concern that many possible effects of GMOs can’t be known for years.

Washington recently tried to become the first state in the U.S. to legally force food companies to label any products that use GMOs. But the measure that would have done so, known as Initiative 522, was soundly defeated by voters.

The competing interests – meeting global food demand while trying to build a more natural, sustainable food production and delivery system – has presented a difficult quandary for businesses, consumers and politicians.

Groups that usually work together, like environmental organizations and nonprofits that feed the hungry, have found themselves at odds over the issue of GMOs. That makes for an interesting dynamic that will likely continue to be an issue as GMOs gain a larger place in the public consciousness.