A New York Times discussion this week among six powerhouses of the food and agriculture movements -- including Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, -- tackles the issue of genetically-modified crops: the ethics of using them and the feasibility of their power to combat world hunger. Oxford University economist Paul Collier comes out of the gate strong, immediately addressing -- and shooting down -- the strongest arguments against bioengineered food:
The debate over genetically modified crops and food has been contaminated by political and aesthetic prejudices: hostility to U.S. corporations, fear of big science and romanticism about local, organic production. Food supply is too important to be the plaything of these prejudices. If there is not enough food we know who will go hungry.
But then Her Super-awesomeness Vandana Shiva, the author and activist (check out the documentary "The Corporation" and see her in some badass action if you haven't already) snaps right back:
Food security over the next two decades will have to be built on ecological security and climate resilience. We need the real green revolution, not a second "Green Revolution" based on genetic engineering ... The claim by the genetic engineering industry that without genetically modified food we cannot respond to climate change is simply false. Climate resilient traits in crops have been evolved by farmers over centuries. In the community seed banks that I have helped create through the Navdanya movement, we have seeds for drought resistance, flood resistance and salt tolerance. This is the biological capital for the real green revolution.
The discussion is weighty, compelling and lively, with definite shades of gray, including Foley's proposal for a "hybrid" solution:
Rather than voting for just one solution, we need a third way to solve the crisis. Let's take ideas from both sides, creating new, hybrid solutions that boost production, conserve resources and build a more sustainable and scalable agriculture.
See where you stand.