Almost anyone who is versed in agricultural science is pro-GMO. But for much of the United States, which are generations removed from farm life, there is a lot advanced machinery and biotechnology that accentuates that knowledge gap. This week on the r/unpopularopinion subreddit, one user approached this disconnect head-on with a post titled, GMO crops save lives and anti GMO is pro starvation.
The post points out that the use of genetic engineering in the production of food “leads to increased yield , less chemicals because of less of a need for pesticides, resistance to flooding and drought as well as increasing nutritional value heavily.” Billions of people are alive today thanks to the advances in GMOs, whether because of the increased performance of modern staples such as corn and soybeans or because less talked-about biotech improvements with medicine such as insulin and the value that Golden Rice would bring to many Asian nations.
While food security is still a critical issue in much of the world, the severity of it has been lessened dramatically thanks to the adoption of GMOs.
A platform as big as Reddit is certain to draw a variety of opinions, especially in a sub specifically titled “unpopularopinion,” but it’s heartening to see that so many people backed up the OP, u/Amigosnow, over the importance of GMOs. It also trends with the implementation around the world of genetically engineered crops. As of 2019, biotech crop plantings had increased about 113-fold since 1996, with an accumulated area of 2.5 billion hectares. This made biotech the fastest-adopted crop technology in the world.
The unpopular/debatable part of this opinion, however, isn’t whether it’s good to be pro-GMO but rather whether being against biotechnology equates to supporting starvation. Those who are anti-science probably don’t see it that way and are instead just echoing “scary” memes and organic marketing without having a clue what GMO is really all about.
Yet, where does sustained ignorance on a topic like agriculture stop being about one person’s perspective and translate into being a broader drain on food security?
Someone against GMOs may not be actively supporting starvation, but they certainly are embracing the slippery road to get there. And speaking out against innovations in selective plant breeding is more damaging to global nourishment and nutrition than many folks realize.
Reddit users in the thread noted that the appeal-to-nature fallacy is where many of the anti-science antagonism comes from, and that the public rarely hears about the value of drought-resistant seed traits while instead being fed a drumbeat of pesticide use and GMOs as ecology-destroying monocultures. (Monocultures, of course, are not exclusive to genetically engineered commodity crops, nor are all GMO crop varieties, like potatoes or papaya, planted as the scale many people perceive. And pesticides are used in all types of farm production.)
While the scores of comments on this post generally pointed toward support for genetic engineering and the rigorous testing methods and application of the science globally, there was a common sticking point for even those who are pro-GMO: the still lingering idea of Monsanto as the “big, bad” corporate monopoly in seeds.
“Most of the anti-GMO people I know aren’t really anti-GMO, they are anti-mega-conglomerates like Monsanto,” a comment stated.
Being against Monsanto “is the only reasonable argument for organic stuff imo,” another user said.
Yet the Monsanto being referenced here isn’t exactly the one that exists today — and the one they may be referring to isn’t the same company that was around 50 years ago. The modern Monsanto has been bought out by Bayer, a deal that closed in 2018, and many parts of the old Monsanto corporation were divested in the sale or its products have come off of patent, limiting the entity’s exclusivity.
It’s also important to note that even non-GMO seeds can be patented, even though the method of growing a plant cannot be patented.
Probably the capstone of the Reddit thread (and one of the most up-voted comments) was from u/GroundbreakingKey199, where this user said: “Everything is GMO, GMO is totally safe, and everyone has eaten it. No debate possible unless the anti-GMO side wants to bring out proof.”
It captures everything that the agricultural science community has been saying for years.