Why GM Crops Are a Moral Necessity
While some concerns about GM crops are valid, refusing to pursue them while poor countries suffer malnutrition and starvation is irresponsible, says rights activist Isobel Coleman.
What's the Latest Development?
Professor of international development at Harvard, Calestous Juma has called on Africa to form an "International Institute for Biotechnology" that would unite governments, farmers, researchers and private companies to make genetically modified crops a positive force in Africa. If the world is to meet the rising demand for food, sub-Saharan land must be better utilized. Currently, only 4% is irrigated, compared with 40% of the land in Asia. A recent Nature article suggested that organic farming yields about one-third less food than conventional techniques, due mostly to disease vulnerability and the lack of synthetic fertilizers.
What's the Big Idea?
By 2050, the world faces a 70% increase in global food demand so worries over genetically modified foods must be balanced against malnutrition and starvation in the world's poorest countries. While there are real concerns about genetically modified food, no scientific studies have found them unsafe to eat since their widespread use began a decade ago. GM foods are one tool in the toolkit, to be sure. Another is waste reduction: Consumers in the West throw away about a third of the food produced while in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, about a third of cultivated foods rot due to inadequate transportation and storage.
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Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.
- Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
- As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
- If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
- Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
- By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?
- "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
- The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
- Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
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