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When it comes to the genetic modification of food supplies, it isn’t all just about big-bad-business working to screw us over for increased profit margins. Obviously, these companies benefit by getting more bang for the buck. But there’s another far more noble side of such technology: it helps feed an ever-growing population, one that is already strained in the effort to keep food on the table and keep up with increasing demand.

Few people are aware of or truly appreciate the extent of the global food crisis we teeter on the brink of. Like so many challenges that we face, it isn’t just about one particular issue, but a variety of things all coming together to spell out disaster:

Why the world needs genetically modified foods

I. The rising population is leading to increasing demand, a demand that is expected to jump drastically in the coming years. Population projections are outstripping our current ability to feed them. Population is increasing exponentially, food supplies are not.

2. Mismanagement is leading to the desertification of farm land at an alarming pace.

3. Issues related to global warming are expected to further level off or even cause a decrease in the amount of food being produced. As temperatures increase worldwide, even more farmland turns to desert, and rain falls unevenly, flooding some areas (which damages crops) while others are deprived of moisture (which also damages crops).

4. Energy shortages and the higher price of oil are expected to result in many richer nations converting more food into fuel. Ethanol production the U.S. over the 2007/2008 season has already caused numerous food shortages in third-world nations and contributed to significant child deaths around the world. The fact is that thousands of children died that year so we could fill our SUVs with their food. The trend is likely to get even worse as oil supplies become more strained, which is bound to happen in the future.

5. On top of that, emerging economies such as those in India, China and Pakistan are starting to act like we have for the past 50 years, and this isn’t a good thing. The world can’t support 5 or 6 nations as bloated and wasteful as we’ve been. They’re consuming more and wasting more (just like we do) which drives food prices even higher, which means that poor families can’t afford to feed their children, and more children die.

6. Meanwhile, we’ve severely over-fished our oceans. Some estimates are that 90% of ocean stocks could be depleted by the middle of this century. In addition, dead zones (large portions of ocean that are uninhabitable) are popping up all over the world. Most of these are caused by agricultural runoff that enters the water supply and drains into the ocean. (Most dead-zones occur near river outlets.) What’s more, scientists have discovered new dead zones seemingly triggered by the effects of rising ocean temperatures. Some areas have had to take the unprecedented step of banning commercial fishing altogether for a year or two to keep certain populations of fish, such as salmon, from being fished to

extinction. In short, all these things add up to one message: Seafood returns are going to be diminishing in coming years, and a food supply that much of the world depends on won’t be there. Even as of now, almost 75% of the planet’s fisheries have been classified as either over-fished or depleted altogether.

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The poor in the United States have thus far been relatively shielded from food supply problems. However, that’s already starting to change. Inflation in the food supply has started to hit people even in first-world nations. A USA Today article in 2009 sounded the alarm about how a ‘New Class of American Emerges in Need of Food’ Food banks have seen a spike in demand, and the families emerging in need of food are not the poor and desolate, but increasingly working class families whose paychecks don’t reach far enough after rent and utilities to cover the increasing cost of food. Government data for 2006 showed that 10.9% of U.S. Households were “food insecure,” meaning they did not have enough food at some point in time during the year.

Food shortages also threaten stability. According to World Bank President Robert Zoellick, thirty-three nations are now at risk for social unrest due to rising food prices. In Thailand, rice farmers have to guard their plots at night, and in Haiti, dozens of people have been killed in separate food riots around this impoverished country.

The bottom line is that we need more food If a genetically engineered Salmon can help US get more food in less time from the same amount of space, it’s well worth it. This will not only help us feed starving children in other nations better, it will ultimately aid people in this country as well. In the end, we’ll just have to watch, wait, and hope they do it safely. The health of our children will hang in the balance either way.

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