We here in the wealthy, well-fed west are overlooking one of the greatest moral crises in the world: the millions of deaths and hundred of millions more illnesses caused by starvation and lack of basic nutritional needs of people in the world. People who live in more desperate situations that we can even imagine. We have a moral obligation and duty to use every method at our disposal, including GM crops, to alleviate the suffering of almost a billion people on our planet. (1)(2) Every year, over two million children needlessly die of starvation (2).
An example of a low risk GM crop is discussed by Steven Novella at his Neurologica blog, and covers the introduction of Golden Rice, which is supplemented with vitamin A. This crop could save close to 500, 000 children a year who die of vitamin A deficiency. There are some very salient points brought up in his article, but I’d like to quote one in particular:
Bruce Chassy is speaking this week at the AAAS meeting (American Academy for the Advancement of Science) arguing that the current regulation of GM crops is counterproductive (an opinion he also gives here). He argues that the last 20 years have demonstrated the overall safety of GM crops through multiple plantings and scientific studies. We still need to monitor GM crop safety, but the current level of regulation is harming the hungry and the poor, mostly in the third world.
Of course we have a duty to make sure that all GM crops are tested as throughly as possible to keep side effects to a minimum, be it to human and animal health, or the spreading of deleterious traits into wild plants. But, like most anything in life, the risks of harm from GM crops needs to be weighed against the harm caused by nutritional deficiencies and starvation world wide. From what I can see in the history of GM crops so far, the benefits for humanity far outweigh the risks.
We live a sheltered, comfortable life here in the west. We are able to look past the basics of life, food and shelter, to other issues, such as the environment. To label all GM crops as bad is unscientific, and given what we know, immoral. When we have GM crops that can save millions of lives, that can provide more food per acre for starving people, that can fulfill the nutritional needs of the poor, we have a moral obligation to take the necessary risks and do the most good for the whole of humanity.