STORY BY James Sullivan

Published: December 22, 2013

A new name has replaced Rothschild as the most common antagonist to fall from the mouths, or rather keyboards, of the internet’s conspiracy theorists: Monsanto, with its covert, sinister agenda of producing genetically modified organic vegetables or GMO’s. Many cite the courts’ overturning of DOMA to be a welcome distraction, an emotionally driven social issue that rallied the public together, while the Obama Administration passed legislation approving the sale of GMO’s without the need to label them around the same time as the legislation. Nor is the situation with Monsanto a controversy (or manufactroversy, to the more cynical), strictly limited to the United States. GMO’s have been banned as harmful for human consumption in parts of the European Union as well, most recently in Italy

Proponents and experts on GMO’s have a different stance. Science is generally in agreement that the benefits far outweigh the harm. GMO crops can survive freezing and negligible amounts of rainfall, part of what will be a growing problem in itself for much of the world. They can even be a safer alternative to the use of farm pesticides.  Because they generally contain more nutrients than their non-modified counterparts, and are more commercially available and affordable, they even carry the potential to end world hunger. While there are those who would like to speculate that by modifying the plant’s genes, they are making the plants more susceptible to some sort of apocalyptic virus nightmare, for the most part, the conspiracy theorists are doing more harm than good with their worrying. Whether they know it or not, their agitation prevents a feasible solution to the problem of world hunger, sometimes in areas that need a solution soon. 

The DFG of Germany recently financed one such study, group interviews of local farmers in rural India, conducted by researchers Matin Qaim and Shahzad Kouser. Qaim and Kouser interviewed two separate groups: one a farming community that adopted the genetically enhanced product dubbed Bt cotton by the study for their farm, and  another that subsisted on ordinary cotton plants. Data from the study suggested that families that grew Bt cotton showed more calorie absorption than those with ordinary cotton crops. This is largely because Bt cotton requires less acres to grow, allowing farmers to grow other crops such as fruits and vegetables for themselves, richer in calories and nutrients than the grains and cereals that families growing ordinary cotton were often forced to subside on. 

There were signs that the crop of Bt cotton showed durability too, with its area increasing steadily, from occupying just under 1.0 ha on farms in 2002, to being up to 2.4 ha in 2008. During this six year period prior to the study’s initial research, saw a number of monsoons, the annual heavy rains that sweep through India in the spring. Yet, the Bt modification managed to thrive in spite of nature’s harsh conditions, including summer droughts, allowing the families who grew it to have a surplus. There has been a steady increase in farmers who have adopted Bt since Qaim and Kouser’s study, a demand for a crop that is not only reliable and consistent in its yield, but affords them the opportunity to raise and feed their own livestock and grow other crops as well. Not only does Bt show a clear path towards better ways of living for many of these farmers, who typically average the equivalent of $300-500 USD per month, but towards prosperity as well.   





Other Stories by James Sullivan
[^] comments powered by Disqus

Have a topic you want covered? Let us know.