Readers write: Feeding the world, more than biotechnology

Letters to the editor for the Sept. 5, 2016 weekly magazine.

John Miller/AP
A genetically engineered potato pokes through the soil of a planting pot in a lab in southwestern Idaho.

Feeding the world

Regarding the June 27 cover story “The great food fight”: The assumption underlying the Vermont food labeling law is that the public needs to be protected against food “tainted” by genetically modified organisms. Aside from the fact that there is no evidence that GMO foods are harmful, this is shortsighted. By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion and these additional billions must be fed. In a 2009 report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that crop production would have to increase 70 percent by 2050 to meet this need. Since there is practically no additional arable land available, this can be achieved only through dramatically improved yields. Crops that have been engineered for drought tolerance and efficient use of nutrients are a critical part of this yield enhancement. Consumers in the wealthy part of the world have the luxury of choosing to eat only organic, non-GMO food; the rest of the world does not.

Steven Brierley

Westford, Mass.

More than biotechnology

Regarding the June 30 article “Stop bashing GMOs, say 107 scientists and economists” ( The search for a biotech fix for hunger distracts attention from hunger’s underlying causes and from alternative interventions that are more appropriate. Farmers in third-world countries want to breed and grow crop varieties that adapt to their diverse ecosystems. 

Small-scale farmers have evolved systems of seed exchange for future seasons and generations. Genetic engineering of food crops will lock farmers into a system of nonsustainable industrial agriculture, making them dependent on large corporations for seed and other inputs. This will create a fragile food system and will thereby increase food insecurity. How about providing farmers in developing countries with better equipment, grain storage that is rodentproof, and money to purchase seeds that maintain their traditional agricultural systems?

Laurel Hopwood

Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Team chair


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