Many people are opposed to the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and believe they are dangerous for your health. Many also are opposed to the use of pesticides, and believe that there are ‘natural’ alternatives to their use in farming. Both of these beliefs are not just wrong: they are dangerous.
As the population of the world is set to grow to 10 billion by 2050, we urgently need to recognise that many of the commonly-held views in Europe on agriculture are simply not based on fact.
For most of human history, hunger and starvation were facts of life in Europe. Famines caused by crop failures would periodically wipe out hundreds of thousands of people on the continent. Each year, families would pray for the right weather which would allow them to survive to the next.
Thanks to modern agricultural techniques, this experience is today a memory. Modern pest and weed control technologies protect crops from blight and disease. Scientific innovations make more resilient crops, meaning farmers are not defenceless against capricious weather systems. These techniques allow us to grow enough food to feed half a billion people (and counting) in Europe.
As a result of this, we in Europe have become used to a world of plenty. Most children and young adults do not know what it is to not have enough food to eat.
The privilege of living in such an affluent society seems to have made people across Europe complacent. They think that because they have never known true hunger, starvation is a problem we have tamed forever. This ease of living has led some to attempt to cast aside the very technologies which make this abundance possible.