The world has become a global technological hub and technology cuts across almost every aspect of life. Some people even argue that it can address some of the world’s most intriguing problems such as hunger. Whether that argument is factual is open for debates. A significant percentage of supporters of biotechnology believe that genetic engineering of foods can solve world hunger. However, the Panos Institute report suggests that solving this issue requires the input of politicians because it is one of the primary political issues.
According to the Friends of Earth, “most people suffer from hunger and malnutrition in different parts of the world because they are unable to afford to buy food, not due to the lack of it.” Most cases of hunger emanate from global politics rather than technological and agricultural issues, though they also cause it. As a result, many people question the motives behind using biotechnology to cater for malnutrition and hunger issues because they feel that politics should play a pivotal role in feeding the world.
Food Fast, on the other hand, observes that “a significant percentage of innovations in agricultural biotechnology target profits, and not the needs of the people.” It also questions whether GE technological advancements will protect the environment, ensure food security, and eradicate poverty from the developing nations. Furthermore, GE food is a costly technology that cannot help curb hunger or malnutrition. Many organizations have also noted that some yields of GE crops are lower than those of the conventional ones.
One of the bioethicists at Yale University, Kimmelman Jonathan, argued, “Companies such as Monsanto claim that genetic modification will provide food to the world. However, the financial benefits from this practice will flow to the largest producers of agriculture in most countries. In such a situation, the local agricultural economies will find it hard to operate in the markets.”
The Inter Press Service (April 24, 2000) noted that one of the world’s modern injustices is the irony that surrounds agriculture. The food producers (agricultural workers) are least able to get enough foods to feed themselves in most parts of the world. Approximately, there are 1.3 billion agricultural producers in the world. Several biotech companies argue that genetically engineered products will increase food security as well as alleviate hunger. Ironically, their acts of patenting ancient knowledge and foodstuff that developed in the past seem to be a setback to food availability.
Amory and Hunter Lovins explain that factor in a blunt way. They claim that the success of creating GE crops relies on their patentability, not productivity. Their economic value does not help the subsistence farmers to get food for themselves. Instead, it feeds more livestock for the overfed rich agricultural producers.
Biotechnology is Poorly Attacking Hunger Symptoms
People should not hold high hopes on the promise that the technologies such as GE foods or others can alleviate hunger because they are not the end results. If they are, then the causal factors of hunger and exploitive practices would continue, further expanding the gaps between the wealthy and poor. The haves can help the have-not fight hunger through these technologies, but they will aim at maintaining or even increasing the dependency level of the developing nations upon them.
Biotechnology aside, increased food production due to the use of industrial inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) and Green Revolution has still failed to reduce world hunger. They feed more people, but still leave others hungry, even those in the wealthy nations. From a critical point of view, increasing production of food is not the only answer. Several social, economic, and political factors must also contribute to fighting hunger and malnutrition. Indeed, the solutions do not only come from additional production, as much as handling economic and political causes of hunger and inequality
Limitations of Biotechnology
If the biotech industries are using the genetically engineered foods to address hunger, then they are just attacking its symptoms, and not the primary causal factors. That approach is inappropriate because it fails to handle the root causes such as poverty and the inability to afford or distribute food due to some economic policies and international politics. There is one intriguing factor about biotechnology corporations that Robbins John points out. These companies do not invest in crops and technologies that would address shortages of food around the globe.
Instead, they concentrate on the production of livestock feed. Robbins said, “Monsanto and other biotechnology proponents urge the public to use genetic engineering in ensuring that the world’s food supply keeps up with the growth of populations. However, even with about 100 million acres of crops, their yields are yet to derail the spread of hunger. Biotechnology does not provide food for the less fortunate people. In fact, most fields that use it grow transgenic corn and soybeans that best serve as livestock feed.”
Even with the GE foods, many people would still struggle to afford them. The owners of such products will face many challenges in distributing them to different parts of the world. Therefore, even with a right or great input, the introduction of GE foods would be a tremendous waste of the industry, manpower, resources, and capital. The results would profit the chemical and biotech companies producing and supplying the food. Reliance on these industries would also increase due to their use of patented technologies.
The world is ready to incorporate new technological advancements into various aspects of their lives. There is a growing notion that technology can solve almost all the word’s intriguing issues such as hunger and poverty. However, just as this paper outlines, biotechnology and genetic engineering is not the solution. The potential in the new technologies can feed the world, but it can also bring more profits at the expense of the needs.
Shunning biotechnology would not be a sound idea. Instead, it should undergo intensive research and testing. Moreover, international corporations need to address both economic and political issues governing biotechnology research. Unless that takes place, the world might never realize its productiveness. As at now, the international organizations should join forces to fight social, economic, and political factors that cause world hunger.
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