The World Socialist Movement sits on the fence when it comes to the claims and counter-claims about the safety and benefits of GMO foods. Like other controversial technology such as nuclear energy or fracking, we believe that it has to be an informed choice of people in a socialist society whether these developments are deemed useful or not. We do however think that current debates on those topics can be unduly influenced by vested business interests.
You've probably heard some form of the following statement several times before: "It will be awfully difficult, if not impossible, to feed the world's growing population without genetically modified crops." It’s the line of biotech seed manufacturers such as Monsanto and philanthropists such as Bill Gates. It appears to have its roots in a report issued by the United Nations, which estimated that food production will need to nearly double from 2008 levels by the year 2050 to accommodate at least a couple billion more humans, and singled out genetic modification as one important tool to improve agricultural yields in the coming decades.
In 2014 nearly 94% of corn and 93% of soybean grown in the United States were cultivated from genetically modified varieties. But this is a pretty empty statistic, because it assumes that the only use for corn and soybean harvests is human food. That simply isn't the case. 44% of last year's corn harvest went to animal feed, another 44% became ethanol fuel, and the remaining 12% went to "other" uses that included food and sweeteners. In 1980, well before the ethanol boom of the mid-2000s and commercialization of biotech crops in 1996, the percentage of the nation's annual corn crop that went to "other" uses, such as human foods and sweeteners, was 12% -- exactly the same proportion as in 2014. However, the amount of corn grown overall swelled 142% in the same time period. Since the majority of America's combined corn and soybean harvests don't go to food, we can justifiably assume GMO foods aren't helping to more adequately feed the world.