A hungry world should look to GMOs

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The world's population is growing and will reach 9 billion by 2050. The rate of productive land loss globally is estimated at 1 hectare (2.471 acres) every 6.74 seconds. Arable land (i.e., land that is suitable for growing crops) remains constant at 3 percent of the earth's surface.

How is that possible?

Deforestation — the result of a developing world striving to feed itself. The unfortunate reality is that one out of every nine people on earth today does not have enough food to maintain a healthy life. And while fossil fuels have nothing to do with this form of climate change, you would never know that based on what world leaders have been, and continue to be, fixated on.

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I have a question for those religious leaders who have bought into the masterful public-relations effort by environmental groups that fossil fuels will be the ruination of the earth, but completely ignore the plight of today's poor and hungry masses (almost 1 billion men, women and children).

How is the world going to feed itself on less land and the same amount of water, with 2 billion more people, without fully utilizing technology? I do not argue that man has nothing to do with climate change, but I do argue we should be smart about our solutions.

As a predominantly Christian nation, we profess to be concerned about the poor. How are the poor helped by making food and energy more expensive? Organic food is 47 percent more costly than conventional food. For those who can afford and want to purchase organic food, I hope the market grows from the current 8 percent and continues to be profitable for those who produce it.

The hungry of the world though, have a major problem. The so-called "environmental movement" has convinced the political leaders of the world that technology is bad, but neglect to present a sustainable alternative. The science is clear: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not harmful to anyone; in fact, 2,000 studies have found GMOs to be as safe as non-GMOs. But do not believe me, ask your family doctor. And if your doctor says she/he does not know, ask her/him to check it out. If genetically modifying insects to control the spread of vector-borne diseases are permissible, perhaps genetically modifying our food to make it more abundant, more nutritious and safer has merit also, especially for the poor?

Polls show that one out of every four Americans does not know what a GMO is, and over 50 percent know very little, yet over 70 percent want GMOs to be labeled. That signals a problem that is easily exploited by those with an anti-technology agenda. Labeling will increase the cost of food, especially if industry moves away from genetic engineering technology, giving in and raising their costs, again affecting those who can least afford it. Why not just label those products that are GMO free, similar to organic? If you want to pay more, the market will provide you with that opportunity. And everyone is happy!

In the meantime, I suggest the creation of a coalition comprised of family doctors (whom we all entrust with our physical well-being) and religious leaders (who by virtue of their profession are concerned about the poor) to provide the public with the facts about GMOs. Guidance from religious leaders and medical professionals will be more meaningful given their sincere concern about the welfare of people across the globe.

I know today that the world cannot feed and fuel itself now and in the future without fully utilizing technology and I believe we are doing our nation great harm by under-funding research in agriculture (production, nutrition and food safety) as well as energy. But I would be willing to admit I am wrong about GMOs if someone can show me how the world will feed itself in the future without technology, and I know my pastor and doctor will both agree. Be prepared to argue based on science and economics, not opinions paid for by someone's undisclosed deep pockets and political agenda!

Stenholm is a former U.S. representative from Texas, serving from 1979 to 2005. He is currently a senior policy adviser at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC.

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