Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Visiting professor promotes genetically modified food

Genetically modified food may be the healthiest, most profitable alternative to organic food and the products of conventional agriculture in the coming days, according to a lecture by R. Paul Thompson, visiting professor from the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto.

One common misconception is that the food is genetically altered, when actually the plants that the food is made from are the ones being changed.

Thompson said that GM crops are more environmentally friendly than conventional farming methods and are at least equal to if not better than organically grown crops.  As an added bonus over organic foods, GM foods are more affordable.

“Organic foods are so expensive because their growth requires extensive labor and is sold in a boutique market,” Thompson said. “Without widespread production, you are going to pay outrageous prices.”

Additionally, Thompson said no food is truly “natural” in this day and age. He noted that tomatoes, when first discovered in South America, were tiny red berries that grew. The Aztecs began the domestication of the tomato into the plump, juicy fruit found in salads today.

He said despite the claims of organic farmers, none of them are able to grow natural food unless they can go back in time and start over with the original food in nature. Every food has been modified to some degree.

“Organic foods have zero evidence that they provide health benefits in numerous scientific studies,” Thompson said, citing three journals of science. “Just because the label says ‘organic,’ does not mean it is any better for your body than another food. Organic and genetically modified crops affect the land in the same way.”

He said GM crops, on the other hand, are going to cost a little more to grow than conventional crops, but they yield a more substantial crop over the same land mass.

Thompson has extensive experience researching GM foods, which is how he came to have this data. He served as president of a non-government organization for 18 years, dealing with the preservation of agricultural land and productivity as well as acting as a member of a consulting group to the largest GM food company in Canada for three years.

Thompson said that currently, global agriculture is using 55 percent of habitable land. With a steady population growth at 13 percent over the last 10 years, 800 million people have been added to the planet. The large chunk of population growth in the U.S. can be attributed to immigration, meaning this is both a global and national problem.

Thompson said if humans continue to use the methods of conventional agriculture, more land must be cleared and chemicals must be used to get a maximum yield so everyone can eat.

“As India and China are becoming more affluent, people living off of three bowls of rice a day now expect seven bowls and a couple of chickens,” Thompson said.

He said our current prosperity is a direct result of advances in science and technology. Some of the benefits of GM crops include: healthier plants, less land needed to grow more food, less herbicides and pesticides that will harm the environment and increased yields.

Thompson addressed many problems people bring up in association with GM, including environmental concerns, agribusiness (monopoly on GM seeds that raise prices) and human health concerns.

He said in 16 years of testing not one of these concerns has been validated.

“I am risk aversive,” he said. “I wouldn’t buy a microwave for ten years after they first came out. However, most of the problems in prescription drugs are discovered within five years. After 16 years with no problems, this seems like a good alternative to conventional farming.”

He predicts drought-resistant and vitamin-enriched GM foods will be grown in North America within the next six years, and that the perfect ear of corn is just over the horizon.

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