If people want to achieve feeding the current population of seven billion people, or the projected population of nine billion people by 2050, they need to check the current reality, said WSU assistant professor Amit Dhingra at the Under The Big Tent debate Monday.
“We cannot stop the population from growing,” he said. “Do we want to be living in an oppressive political environment where you can only have one kid or no kid? So you can’t change (the population growth) reality.”
The topic of Monday’s Under The Big Tent debate was global food security. The event was put on to discuss the issues of resources needed for the population, biotechnology as a solution and the promise of organic and sustainable agriculture.
“The way the economic scenarios are changing, we need to be more motivated to
protect our land, our resources,” Dhingra said.
The debate centered mainly on the topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“We don’t know what people eat in terms of GMOs,” said University of Idaho professor Guy Knudsen. “Probably most people here today have eaten something genetically modified today.”
The lack of public knowledge on which foods are GMOs is due to companies that have lobbied against a label for the genetically modified products, he said. This is a consumer issue because the public is ignorant as to what they are eating.
“I personally feel, if we have to sustain our resources, sustain our environment, our land we need to use these tools in (biotechnology) rather than debating over it for the longest time,” Dhingra said.
Biotechnology can be used to generate drought resistant crops as well as fuel people’s cars using biodiesel, he said. The U.S. led an example of using GMOs to save the papaya industry of Hawaii, which had been decimated due to a viral disease, he said. Within the last decade the industry was saved and the papaya habitat restored, he said.
“Unfortunately, we get so polarized by the word GMO, we don’t want to look at the facts,” Dhingra said.
The debate took place in the CUB Lair, and many passers-by stopped to listen to the points being made.
“I think everybody got to share and paint a pretty well-rounded picture of the issue about feeding the world,” said Emily Green-Tracewicz, a student in the interdisciplinary doctoral program.
Some classic examples were brought up in the debater’s positive and negative points about GMOs, she said. The example of growing locally to support a local population was also a great example. She said she did feel that the debaters could have gone into more depth on the issues, but she understood that the time constraints of the event prevented them from doing so.
“For me, what I think really resonates is this issue of agricultural colonialism,” Green-Tracewicz said. “For me, it’s an important point to consider. We’re talking about how we’re going to impart our knowledge and resources on the rest of the world, whether it’s appropriate, whether it makes sense and whether we’re just making ourselves feel better about the whole thing.”