Can Genetically Modified Crops Help the Poor?

CanGenetically Modified Crops Help the Poor?

CanGenetically Modified Crops Help the Poor?

Geneticallymodified (GM) crops are plants utilized in agriculture, in which theDNA has been altered using genetic engineering mechanisms. The aim ofthis technique is to introduce a novel trait to the plant that doesnot happen naturally within the species. These farming inventionshave spread randomly across the world. For instance, they are themost predominant agricultural practices in South and North America.They are also increasingly vital to the emerging economies likeIndia, Brazil, and China. As such, these countries are responsiblefor more than 30 percent of the globe’s GM crops. However, they areconsistently resisted by most of the European countries [ CITATION Sch16 l 1033 ].

Mostof the present extension of GM crops is based in emerging economies.In 2012, the land utilized for these crops was bigger in thedeveloping countries than the already developed ones. This was thefirst time it had happened. Additionally, the gap has continued toextend by precisely 10 percent in two years. Out of the 28 nationsthat grew the crops in 2014, 20 were emerging while eight weredeveloped. In addition to this, approximately 90 percent of the 18million agriculturalists indulged in this crops in 2014 weresmallholder growers from emerging states. Even with the growinginvolvement of the biotech crops, some nations and internationalagencies are continuously repelling the move. Some argue that theyare not safe for consumption. Therefore, this paper will provide anin-depth analysis of the literature surrounding the geneticallymodified crops and whether they can assist the poor.

Accordingto the proponents of GMOs, the tool is vital in the worldwide fightagainst hunger and poverty. The underdeveloped countries face hungerchallenges due to increased populations and limited food supplies.The proponents argue that donor countries like Canada should supportthe move both financially and politically. According to RobertPaarlberg of the Harvard University, it is the responsibility ofdonor nations to invest in the low-income agricultural structuresthat have reduced chances of gaining from the ‘spillover’ impactsof beneficial tools operated elsewhere. Additionally, he affirms,there is a need to concentrate on the introduction and evaluation ofthe potential for GM produces to assist agriculturalists in povertystricken countries [ CITATION Sch16 l 1033 ].

RobertPaarlberg further suggests that the African contingent is suitablefor such investments since the farmers have the propensity to beland-secure. As such, they would benefit from the technologicalupgrade in the farming sector. As per to Paarlberg, the issue inAfrica does not revolve around inadequacy pay-off of the GMtechnologies rather it involves adequate pay-in from developmentaldonors. In other words, the region is ready to accommodate thetechnology but lacks sufficient funds. It is, therefore, from thedeveloped countries to support the science regarding funds. Perhaps,increased innovations pertaining agriculture could solve the issuesconcerning food insecurity that is a major contributor to poverty [ CITATION Sch16 l 1033 ].

Paarlberg’ssentiments were echoed by Jennifer Thompson who believes the GM cropscan benefit the poor. She stresses that GM crops are but one devicein the fight for maintainable farming, but one that merits moreventure from donors due to its simplicity. The GM crops according toher are easy to use and can offer immense benefits to poor farmers.She further states how it is unfair for developed countries to blockthis technology since they have enough food. The prejudice againstthis biotech is an injustice to the poor and hungry people across theglobe. The benefits accredited to the technology implores countriesto offer support to the same. GM crops can address pest infestationspoor weather, and diseases that contribute to considerably low yieldsin the emerging economies. In 2002, roughly half of the cottonfarmers in China used the genetically modified method to produceproducts that were poisonous to the cotton bollworm. As such, theywere able to get maximum yields, profits, and health as the pestscould not harm the cotton. They were also protected from thepesticide sprays. GM crops can also be altered to be resistant toviral, fungal, and bacterial infections. Some inventions have alsoallowed the introduction of genes to make crops weather-resistanti.e. drought, salty soil, acid, frost, or heat. For instance, rice ismodified to produce its sugar to prevent it from dehydration.Evidently, these moves are beneficial to the poor farmers [ CITATION Sch16 l 1033 ].

Nevertheless,critics argue that the projects do not entirely reflect the needs ofthe farmers and their priorities. Framing the genetically modifiedcrops as an innovation that can “feed the world” is a cunningmechanism to disregard other methods like agroecology. These othermechanisms are also healthy and ecological-friendly. Other opponentsperceive the GM technology in emerging nations as a Trojan horsemeant to establish associations between private biotech corporationsand the Southern Research states. As such, it only promotes goodpublic relations for the private sector donors thus facilitating theprogress of tolerant GM regulations. The considerable gains whichensued in emerging states from the Green Revolution were mainly dueto the studies conducted within the public sector. However, the GMstudies are primarily led by a small number of private corporations.The opponents to the practice dread that studies could be directedtowards the commercial user demand in the developed nations. Probablyonly large-scale industrial agriculturalists and the agrochemicalindustries will gain, while the small-scale, resource-poor farmerswithin the emerging states are neglected [ CITATION Qai13 l 1033 ].

Thereare also concerns revolving around the GM crops effect on theenvironment. It is believed, the potential risks related to the cropsposes irreversible impacts on biodiversity that includes animals,plants, as well as other organisms which exist in nature. The geneticmaterials from these plants could be shifted to the other organismshence result in unpredictable transformations. Opponents, therefore,contend that save there is inevitability on the nonexistence of suchdangers, neither field experiments, nor commercial farming shouldoccur. There is also fear that the cultivated crops as well as theirwild relatives, which also grow in the regions, could be permanentlychanged by the transference of the genetic material from GM produces.Apart from that, it is believed the GM crops could pose significanthealth threats either in the short or long-term. In what is termed asthe precautionary principle, opponents contend that GM crops shouldnot be allowed unless safety is guaranteed [ CITATION Qai13 l 1033 ].


Thedebate on the effectiveness of genetically modified crops isprevalent around the globe. Evidence suggests that the GM crops arebeneficial regarding yields and profits. This is because aspects suchas insects, poor weather, and diseases that hinder the growth ofcrops can be mitigated. As such, crops can be made survive harshconditions to the benefit of the farmers. In that regard, povertystricken nations can utilize the move to avoid hunger. However,critics challenge the viability of this project primarily because itcould be used for selfish gains. Apart from that, the crops aredeemed to be detrimental to the environment. As much as it wouldlessen the hunger crisis among the poor, it poses significant healthrisks. Therefore, it may “feed” the poor but heighten thediseases.


Qaim, M. &amp Kouser, S. (2013). Genetically Modified Crops and Food Security.

Schnurr, M. &amp Smyth, S. (2016). Can Genetically Modified Crops Help the Poor? Options for Canada’s Foreign Policy. 1-11.