Bill Gates's Take On The GMO Debate Might Surprise Biotech Skeptics

It's worth thinking about.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates may have everyone's ear when it comes to cool gadgets and financial tips, but his recent comment about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has people divided. 

In his Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread, Gates said, that GMO foods are "perfectly healthy." His post stands in sharp contrast to recent, popular concern over the safety of consuming genetically modified foods. According to Business Insider, in recent years companies have submitted over 43,000 products to the Non-GMO Project, which is an organization that certifies products that don't contain genetically modified ingredients. Many consumers are opting for non-GMO products, as shown by the more than $22 billion in yearly sales. 

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Many anti-GMO advocates argue that because GMO foods, like fruits and vegetables,  are artificially manipulated to develop traits not produced naturally, they could potentially lead adverse health effects and environmental damage. But many scientists, and Bill Gates, disagree. Not only do they say that government-vetted GMO foods are safe, they also believe they can do more good for the world than bad.

"The technique has the possibility to reduce starvation and malnutrition when it is reviewed in the right way," said Gates in the thread.  "I don't stay away from non-GMO foods but it is disappointing that people view it as better."

Per Newsweek, a recent study published in Nature found that GMO corn could increase crop yield by as much as 25 percent — while reducing the food contaminants. Arable land has decreased by a third in the past 40 years thanks to pollution and erosion, and more and more people — over 100 million globally — are faced with severe food insecurity

If genetic tweaks could help us to produce more corn and more calories per acre, it's no wonder that a philanthropist like Gates is interested. Notably, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced in January a plan to invest in "super cows" that will produce more milk and higher-yield chickens that will lay additional eggs.

The responses from Reddit users to Gates' comments were mixed. Some commended Gates for his forward-thinking approach:

While others were more skeptical.

It's true that not all super crops have panned out. A genetically modified strain of cotton that agrochemical company Monsanto introduced to Burkino Faso reportedly fell flat because of quality issues.

Regardless, Gates' expectations are high for genetically modified foods' potential impact on global hunger. In his 2015 annual letter, he estimated that with genetically modified crops and better fertilizer, farmers in Africa could potentially double the amount of food that they grow.

(H/T: Business Insider)

Cover image via Shutterstock / JStone /  Ivan Popovych.

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