Though most of her recent article for the online magazine Fast Company is dedicated to criticizing genetically modified (GM) foods, writer Ariel Schwartz does bring up some poignant facts. For instance, she draws attention to the dire agricultural situation in sub-Saharan Africa, a region continuously on the brink of famine. As Schwartz explains, over 200 million residents in this area rely on the staple food cassava. This crop, however, is vulnerable to deadly viruses, so researchers from the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) project are using gene-modification technology to create a new breed of GM cassava plants that will be able to resist drought and viral disease. VIRCA is sponsored by the Gates Foundation, the Monsanto Fund, and the Howard Buffet Foundation, and will receive a donation totaling $11.9 million to aid in their efforts to enhance the use of GM technology to increase crop yields and nutrition in the developing world.
However, not everyone is as thrilled about the news as we are. Former Grist food writer Tom Philpott is calling on Bill Gates to back away from GM crops which, according to him, have not been shown to increase food yields and rely on organic farming instead.
Sadly, says ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, people like Mr. Philpott simply don t understand the devastation among poor families that could be remedied by implementing biotech agriculture. Organic farming would clearly not be able to produce enough food crops to feed the world s growing population unless you were to devote most of the inhabited world to agriculture.
ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom adds, To be sitting around and considering hypothetical scenarios while millions of people are starving is so wrong. Mr. Philpott, who is probably well-fed, should be ashamed of himself.