Campaigns opposing genetically modified food are misguided

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 12:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 7:37pm

I refer to Alex Lo’s column (“The safety of genetically modified crops is backed by science”, September 18).

Despite the advancement of genetic engineering in recent decades with huge potential to solve a variety of problems facing the mankind, we cannot fully benefit from the technologies unless the public is well informed about the advantages of GM food.

In June 2016, 113 Nobel prize-winning scientists signed a letter opposing Greenpeace’s anti-GM campaign and asking governments to grant farmers around the world access to biotechnology for GM food. The scientists cited Golden Rice with vitamin A added through genetic modification.

Golden Rice could have benefited over 250 million people in the developing world suffering from diseases caused by vitamin A deficiency if Greenpeace did not oppose GM food. In fact, Golden Rice is just one example of how GM food can solve malnutrition problems in the developing world. Scientists have been working on improving the nutrient composition of other staple crops such as vitamin C and E in corn, iron in rice and protein quality in potato.

In addition to treating malnutrition, GM food can also solve other agricultural and environmental problems on a global scale. GM food can not only be grown faster and with larger yields , thereby alleviating food shortages in the developing world and reducing the carbon footprint of farming – it can also enhance farming in areas with frequent droughts and deficient soil and significantly improve the livelihood of people living in such areas. By growing GM variants of crops more resistant to pests and other diseases, farmers around the world could also reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides and take a step closer to more environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

Historically speaking, mankind has been genetically modifying crops for thousands of years since the advent of agriculture through breeding and crossbreeding different varieties to create plant species with faster growth, higher yields and sweeter fruits.

Modern genetic engineering merely continues such a tradition with more advanced technologies for manipulating genes more precisely.

Despite its valuable work in other areas for environment protection, Greenpeace is on the wrong side of history with regard to GM food. It should stop exploiting the irrational fear of the public and start playing more constructive roles in the development and regulation of GM food.

Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong