We all have those friends in our Facebook feeds: the ones that broadcast articles about all the facets of modern life that cause cancer, and all the homegrown remedies to treat it. And there are usually two pet hates: vaccination, and all things GMO.

But everything is GMO

Almost nothing that we eat today has been untouched by human engineering. We have been selecting and cross-breeding fruit, veg and livestock since the first Agricultural Revolution began back in 10,000BC. The classic example:


If we did that today, and genetically-spun a wild mustard plant into an entire grocery aisle of vegetables, you had best believe that the Facebook-crowd would be crying cancer.

But let’s assume that we need to distinguish between old-school genetic engineering done by farmers, and the new-age genetic engineering done by scientists in a lab.

Even then, this:


We need to be more efficient with food production

In the last 200 years, we’ve gone from a population of 1 billion people to a population of 7 billion. If we want to feed ourselves without destroying more of the natural world than we already have, then we need:

  • high-yielding crops;
  • that grow quickly; and
  • are hardy.

This type of high-yield food is going to attract insect competition, so we can either:

  • spray with pesticides; or
  • develop the plant to have its own defense mechanisms.

And if you don’t want those kinds of characteristics to mutate across to other plant species, then you have to make those crops sterile.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of thing that gets people excited: plants that are genetically-modified, self-pesticiding, and sterile.

The economic reality is that there are only so many alternatives:

  1. Starve (not an actual option);
  2. Claim more arable land from the rainforests to grow more food with our current non-GMO methods; or
  3. Go GMO, asap.

At this point, there is no realistic option that allows humanity to live an organic and free-range life.

And is that really so important anyway? I’d much rather that we try and limit our environmental impact, and take on those GMO risks; than do it the other way, and destroy what’s left of our natural environment.

I also really like this youtube clip, which is totally worth your time:

*goes in search of a genetically-modified breakfast*

Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Or both.