A study by researchers from Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Germany has found that adopting genetically modified crops for farming increases food security needs. Food security is defined as having physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Statistics show that around 900 million people in the world are malnourished.
Tackling hunger and poverty is part of the United Nations Millennium Development goals. Some have touted GM crops as a solution to hunger, while others argue that GM foods may even result in greater food insecurity.
GM foods can enhance food security by increasing crop yield, making crops resistant to pests, increasing the quality of crops or improve farmers economic position and hence grants them access to more nutritious foods.
The researchers conducted their study on small rural farms in India on the basis that small rural farmers make up the proportion of malnourished people. The study observed farmers who grew Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) cotton, a genetically modified crop that is resistant to pests and particularly cotton bollworms which destroy cotton crops.
Cotton is a non-food cash crop, though it does not directly increase farmers’ calorie intake, it provides farmers with a more stable income which can be used to purchase more food and more nutritious calories.
The study shows that farmers who adopted Bt cotton were more able to consume more calories than non-adopting Bt farmers.
Regression results show that each ha of Bt crops has increased total calorie consumption by 74Kcal per Adult Equivalent household. This suggests a 5% increase in mean calorie consumption when compared to non-adopting farms.
The study shows that GM crops lead to an increase in farmers’ incomes and calorie intake. The results are favourable towards GM crops. However public perception of GM crops remain cautious as scientists debate that genetically modified crops could lead to more resistant strains of pests or viruses, increase risks of allergies and even cancer.