In 1918, German chemist Fritz Haber received a Nobel Prize for the invention of a process by which industrial factories could mass produce ammonia-based fertilizer. This was the Haber-Bosch process, which utilized a new artificial process to fix nitrogen, a vital step in the production of ammonia. This new ammonia product was then used to create the compound Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3). Ammonium Nitrate is the basic building block of nearly all agricultural fertilizers used in the world today. It’s an ideal vehicle to deliver additional nutrients to crops due to its solid form (easily packaged and shipped) and its ability to readily dissolve in water.
This technological innovation was partly responsible for the monumental increase in the world’s population over the following 100 years. Crop yields prior to widespread usage of fertilizer were dismal by today’s standards, and could in no way support today’s demand for food and produce. The land required to produce the same amount of crop product that is grown today at the same efficiency as crops pre-1918 would require 50 percent of all the non-frozen landmass on Earth. Currently, farmland occupies 15 percent of all non-frozen landmass. The resources required to maintain crops on 50 percent of the world’s non-frozen landmass would require absolutely massive amounts of water, fossil fuels and other extremely limited resources to grow and harvest to supply the current human population.
GMOs are the fertilizer of the twenty-first century in regards to agricultural production. A common issue when discussing GMOs is the extreme spectrum associated with what qualifies as a genetically modified organism. The definition and title of GMO can range from pigs that glow in the dark to corn seeds that are drought-resistant. This is where the ethical considerations regarding genetic engineering get grey. To those who oppose GMOs, it is likely easier to justify genetic engineering for the production of drought-resistant crops to feed impoverished starving populations in third-world countries than it is to create bioluminescent pigs. However, I would argue both are equally as moral and ethical, but that’s not the point of this article.
Agricultural GMOs have proven that they have the ability to effectively combat climate change and deteriorating environments, they have enabled the human population to keep growing and have provided adequate sustenance to billions across the globe. GMO crops can be engineered for a variety of purposes: increased crop yield, reduced resistance to pesticides, and resistance to drought and inclimate weather.
A common criticism of GMO agricultural products is their alleged questionable safety to consumers. The World Health Organization, American Medical Association and the British Royal Society have come to the unanimous conclusion that consumer GMO agriculture products pose absolutely no increased risk to one’s physical health. If you don’t believe me, go to the Cobber Bookstore and pick up a copy of any Human Anatomy textbook, read the section on the digestive tract and get back to me; on second thought, access Amazon. com to get your copy; the Cobber Bookstore isn’t the best choice for a college student on a budget.
Furthermore, complaining about the questionable ethics surrounding GMOs is perhaps one of the most privileged statements one could make. It’s easy for us as privileged college students at a private liberal arts college in the United States of America to complain about these kinds of things; meanwhile, millions are dying of starvation across the world. In addition to increasing crop yields, agricultural GMOs have made produce and food cheaper and far more accessible for those in poverty and other marginalized groups of society.
On the same note, if the agricultural utilization of GMOs were to be dissolved over the upcoming years, you would single-handedly be sentencing billions of fellow humans to death, as a result of inadequate access to food.
Please don’t misconstrue my words; I would love to live in a world full of organic and all-natural produce with no scientific genetic modification, but news flash: that is in absolutely no way realistic or pragmatic. So open your eyes, do some thinking, question what you’ve been told, and start thinking logically, because guess what? It is both possible and probable to be moral and ethically engaged as well as pragmatic and logical.
Until agricultural GMOs have proven to be more detrimental (if at all) to human and world health, I will stand in solidarity and full support of increased genetic engineering ventures, because it’s what’s moral and ethical.