GM crops are commonplace in the developed world. Across the USA, they account for more than 80% of all maize, 86% of cotton, and 92% of the soya bean crop grown (according to the US Department of Agriculture, 2008). In the EU, a handful of species have been approved for sale, although, in practice, almost no permission has been granted yet.
GM crops are likely to become commonplace in the EU within the next few decades. There is debate about what specifically will trigger GM to pass the political threshold that currently motivates opposition to this biotechnology. I think acceptance will probably happen when food prices rise beyond what the general public will accept. This may be a result of climate change or increased population and demand.
Or maybe this is too skeptical and opinions will U-turn through old fashioned education and understanding. The once morally objectionable (in the eyes of most Europeans) “Frankenfood” will more than likely become the saving grace of sustainable green agriculture. There is already strong support for GM crops from leading scientific communities in the UK such as the Royal Society. A recent publication by the Royal Society, “Reaping the Benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture” highlighted the shortcomings of traditional farming methods, pushing for the government to consider more controlled and intensive farming.
So what will future farming look like?
To what extent can GM food resolve problems related to climate, increased demand, and space? One suggestion is the development of high-rise skyscraper incubation centers.
The Vertical Farm Project is one of the first serious projects aiming to use indoor farming to continue to support our expanding population and save the planet. The solution makes sense. A controlled indoor climate eliminates the impact of changing seasons. Sterile conditions alleviate the threat of pests and allow for organic produce, while also containing the risks associated with releasing GM species into the wild. The land saved can be reforested to protect the environment. Dr. Dickson Despommier, the project founder from Columbia University, even says that vertical farming will prevent wars over resources.
Grow houses for specifically engineered foods may also be the answer to sustaining human life off land — in sea and in space. One of the first challenges to inhabitants of Mars will be building a stable food source. Vertical Farms looks like a good place to start.