Page 1 - Presbyterian Connection
P. 1

 The Presbyterian Church in Canada • ISSUE 21, SPRING 2022
Biotechnology in Agriculture
By Laura Rance, agricultural journalist, who travelled in East Africa while on secondment to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank in 2015 to write about the role of agriculture in development. Laura, who works at Glacier FarmMedia, has covered agriculture, food security and rural development for more than 40 years.
Three decades have passed since the first genetically modified organisms (GMOs) entered our food system, and many consumers remain queasy with the notion of gene jockeys play- ing God with our foods.
The crops grown using these modern plant-breeding tools are now grown by 17 million farmers in 29 countries on 190.4 million hectares worldwide, according to 2019 data produced by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
“Thus, biotech crops are con- sidered as the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture,” it says.
Unless you’ve gone to extreme lengths to avoid them, ingredients from the genetically modified crops have been in the foods we’ve eaten every day since the mid-1990s, and with no verifiable ill effects. “Franken- foods” they are not.
Some of the newly emerging man- ufactured and laboratory-produced alternatives to meat proteins are bio- tech creations. That’s a dilemma for ethical eaters motivated by environ- mental and animal welfare concerns who are also ethically opposed to GMOs.
The ISAAA report also noted that farmers in developing countries in- creasingly embrace biotech crops. “In 2019, 24 developing countries planted 56 per cent of the global biotech hectares, while five indus- trial countries took the 44 per cent share. This trend is expected to con- tinue in the upcoming years due to the increasing number of countries in the southern hemisphere adopting biotech crops and the commerciali- zation of new biotech crops such as
Agnes Tembo and her husband, Geoffrey Nkhambule, harvest corn and peas, which have been planted together on their farm in Edundu, Malawi. With support from PWS&D and Canadian Foodgrains Bank, families in the village have learned about intercropping, crop rotation and composting practices that have improved soil fertility and increased crop yields. PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL JEFFREY, PWS&D
  rice, which is mostly grown in devel- oping countries,” it says.
For ISAAA, a not-for-profit interna- tional organization promoting the ben- efits of crop biotechnology, this is all good news; it is a story that will help feed the world, help mitigate climate change and spare the environment.
Others are less enthusiastic. “The argument that this technology can solve the problem of world hunger, or be a tool towards ending hunger, is compelling but false,” says the Cana- dian Biotechnology Action Network on its website. “Experience with GM crops shows that the application of GM technology is more likely to en- hance and entrench the social, eco- nomic and environmental problems created by industrial agriculture and corporate control.”
So, which is it?
From my perspective, it is neither and both.
After writing about agriculture and food for 40 years, I confess to be- ing skeptical of anyone pointing to technology as either “the” solution or villain. While many of the initial prom- ises around GMOs don’t hold up to scrutiny, these technologies aren’t a bust, either.
Like any tool, biotechnologies are only as good as the hands wielding them.
It’s been nearly 30 years since GMOs and other biotechnology concepts were commercialized and promoted as the answer to end- ing hunger. We still have a lot of hungry people in the world, even though farmers produce more than enough calories to feed everyone.
Continued on page 4
Farmers in Malawi are learning new ways to conserve and rejuvenate depleted soil. By practicing minimal tillage, planting cover crops and introducing compost and mulch, more nutrient-rich soil helps to ensure better harvest results. PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL JEFFREY, PWS&D
  Page 11...
Meet the 2022 Moderator
 Page 21...
Presbyterians Sharing Special Insert
 Page 46...
Belonging and Bigotry

   1   2   3   4   5