Crop varieties and genetic modifications have been in existence for years, but that doesn’t mean that advancements are not still in progress and still making real change. In northern Africa and other parts of the world, particularly those near the equator, agriculture struggles because of an inability to support growth during times of high heat. However, crop modifications are helping alleviate those struggles by allowing farmers the opportunity to grow crops they otherwise would have been unable to produce. A new strain of Durum wheat is one such example.
The new strain, created by the International Center for Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA), can survive in extremely hot temperatures – hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Historically, wheat has been a crop produced in colder temperatures, because those are the only conditions it used to be able to exist in. Now, thanks to the work of groups like the International Center for Research in Dry Areas, the world can maximize productivity of hotter, drier areas like those of northern Africa.
Being that human (labor) capital is a key component of economic development, new innovations in the field of crop modification play an important role in the promotion of economic growth. As time progresses and humans are forced to adapt to changing climate conditions, genetic modifications like the creation of this new strain are going to become even more important to the promotion of a healthy population. This new strain in particular will be beneficial to those areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and other extreme-heat regions in which agriculture is typically hindered by the climate.
With all the benefits that these genetic crop modifications can have there are still aspects of the process and its results that have people justifiably worried about potential negative effects of the food. Besides the scientifically disputed long-term health effects of consuming genetically modified crops, there are an assortment of other negative externalities to consider when discussing their benefit. Of these include the rise in population of insecticide-immune bugs, a reduction of environmental biodiversity and the fact that poor farmers can’t harvest new seeds from old crops. For all these reasons and more, some people are questionable about just how big a role genetically modified crops should play in our ever-evolving future. For now, though, the tangible difference that their implementation is making in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa make them a necessary part of the sustainable development in places where agriculture is not always easy.
“10 Problems Genetically Modified Foods Are Already Causing.” Listverse, 22 June 2013.
“New Durum and Spring Wheat Varieties Perfect for North Dakota, Montana.” Dakota Farmer, 21 Nov. 2017.
Wheat in Heat: The “Crazy Idea” That Could Combat Food Insecurity. Global Development | The Guardian. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.
NOTE: The ICARDA website indicates this is not a GMO but rather the result of standard selective crop breeding. These are not hybrids, they can be replanted. That’s a core component of the strategy of CGIAR institutions, because otherwise new varieties would be of little use to poor farmers, as one of the comments below indicates.