Perhaps the most wrongheaded policies are the tangle of subsidies, mandates and tariffs that encourage the production of biofuels from crops in the United States and the European Union. According to the World Bank, almost all of the growth in global corn production from 2004 to 2007 was devoted to American ethanol production. This increased corn and animal feed prices, and prompted farmers to switch from other crops to corn.
Long-standing farm subsidies in the industrialized world have also contributed, ruining farmers in poor countries and depressing agricultural investment.
But the industrialized nations are not the only culprit. At least 30 developing countries have imposed restrictions or bans on the export of foodstuffs, taking more food from global markets, reducing farmers’ profits, and discouraging them from investing in more production.
So far there is no sign that world leaders are ready to do what is needed. The United States and Europe have refused to curtail their bio-fuel subsidies or their lavish farm subsidies. They are also falling far short of their aid commitments to the developing world.
Although we’ve seen no riots here in the U.S., each trip to the food store is a reminder that rising prices are not a fiction of anyone’s imagination. Other countries have not fared as well, however. Food riots have seared Bangladesh, Egypt and African countries, and in Haiti, the price of food cost the prime minister his job.
Is Green Living Fueling the Food Crisis?
Although the increased use of corn for biofuel is the most popular scapegoat, there may be many other factors that impact our current situation, including:
- Improved financial situation of people in China and India has increased demand for western-style diets rich in grains, meat and dairy
- Export quotas by large grain producers, coupled with panic-buying by grain importers
- Trade imbalances among nations
- Population growth, adding 78 million people per year
- Global warming. Unfavorable climatic conditions in 2007 devastated crops in Australia and reduced harvest in other European countries. Southern Africa and the western U.S. have been plagued with severe drought.
- Unsustainable use of land and water
- Rising oil prices, as fossil fuels are needed throughout the agricultural process, from running tractors, to fertilizer production, to shipping
Some nonconventional media outlets even point the finger directly at the similarities between our current situation and previous man-made famines for the end purpose of mass genocide and calculated population control.
Whatever the true root of the problem is (and it’s likely to be a combination of many), it is rapidly becoming clear that massive changes in our food supply system are desperately needed.
The Role of Genetically Engineered Crop Farming
In addition to the measures prescribed above; curtailing biofuel mandates and nonsensical farm subsidies – topics I already discussed in my previous article, Food Prices are a Global Crisis, where I explained some of the disastrous politics of the farm bill and the practice of “direct payment” subsidies to people living on farm land that is not being farmed -- one commonly proposed solution to the food crisis is to increase use of genetically modified crops.
That is, in fact, precisely the opposite of what is needed.
While the declared motive behind GM food is an altruistic one -- to alleviate hunger, poverty and malnutrition worldwide -- the reality is that GM crops are intended to create previously unimaginable profits more than anything else. And we’re already beginning to see the real price of all that tinkering with Mother Nature: Frankenstein-like crop combinations that can harm your health.
Not only that, but GM crops are FAILING MISERABLY all across the world. After 30 years of GMO experimentation, we have the data to show:
- No increase in yields; on the contrary GM soya has decreased yields by up to 20 percent compared with non-GM soya. Up to 100 percent failures of Bt cotton have been recorded in India. And recent studies by scientists from the USDA and the University of Georgia found that growing GM cotton in the U.S. can result in a drop in income by up to 40 percent.
- No reduction in pesticides use; on the contrary, USDA data shows that GM crops has increased pesticide use by 50 million pounds from 1996 to 2003 in the U.S., and the use of glyphosate went up more than 15-fold between 1994 and 2005, along with increases in other herbicides to cope with rising glyphosate resistant superweeds.
- Roundup herbicide is lethal to frogs and toxic to human placental and embryonic cells. Roundup is used in more than 80 percent of all GM crops planted in the world.
- GM crops harm wildlife, as revealed by UK and U.S. studies.
- Bt resistant pests and Roundup tolerant superweeds render the two major GM crop traits useless. The evolution of Bt resistant bollworms worldwide have now been confirmed and documented.
- Vast areas of forests, pampas and cerrados lost to GM soya in Latin America.
- Epidemic of suicides in the cotton belt of India. 100,000 farmers between 1993-2003, and an estimated 16,000 farmers a year since, have committed suicide since Bt cotton was introduced.
- Transgene contamination is completely unavoidable, as science has recently revealed that the genome (whether plant, animal or human) is NOT constant and static, which is the scientific base for genetic engineering of plants and animals. Instead, geneticists have discovered that the genome is remarkably dynamic and changeable, and constantly ‘conversing’ and adapting to the environment. This interaction determines which genes are turned on, when, where, by what and how much, and for how long. They’ve also found that the genetic material itself has the ability to be changed according to experience, passing it on to subsequent generations.
- GM food and feed linked to deaths and sicknesses both in the fields in India and in lab tests around the world.
Be Part of the Solution
In spite of what you have likely heard, a large shift to organic agriculture -- which by definition is non-GM -- could not only protect and improve the environment, but help end world hunger too.
A Danish study presented to the U.N. in 2007 cited recent models of an organically grown, global food supply to show that a more environmentally friendly approach to agriculture is capable of producing enough food for the world's current population.
What prevents many farmers from making the move to organic is that crop yields could initially drop as much as 50 percent in the very beginning, before evening out over time. However, that problem may be mitigated somewhat, because farmers wouldn't need to dole out precious money for toxic pesticides, the price of which are also skyrocketing as we speak, having risen as much as 75 percent already.
In June, the Taipei Times reported that the price hikes in pesticides should serve as a call to review farming practices and consider going back to old established and sustainable practices such as crop rotation.
While you’re waiting for the leaders of the world to catch up, take advantage of local sources of organic foods as often as you can. You can also avoid GM foods by:
- Reducing or Eliminating Processed Foods. Some 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients.
- Read produce and food labels. When looking at a product label, if any ingredients such as corn flour and meal, dextrin, starch, soy sauce, margarine, and tofu (to name a few) are listed, there's a good chance it has come from GM corn or soy, unless it's listed as organic.
- Buy organic produce. Buying organic is currently the best way to ensure that your food has not been genetically modified.
- Look at Produce Stickers. The PLU code for conventionally grown fruit consists of four numbers, organically grown fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number 9, and GM fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number 8.
For your convenience, download this Non-GMO Shopping Guide, which uses information from the Center for Food Safety and Institute for Responsible Technology that you can get for free.