Can Biotech Food Cure World Hunger?
By THE EDITORS
[pic]Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg A crop of genetically modified canola grows in a field in Lake Bolac, in the Western District of Victoria, Australia, Sept. 29, 2009.
With food prices remaining high in developing countries, the United Nations estimates that the number of hungry people around the world could increase by 100 million in 2009 andpass the one billion mark. A summit of world leaders in Rome scheduled for November will set an agenda for ways to reduce hunger and increase investment in agriculture development in poor countries.
What will drive the next Green Revolution? Is genetically modified food an answer to world hunger? Are there other factors that will make a difference in food production?
• Paul Collier, economist,Oxford University
• Vandana Shiva, activist and author
• Per Pinstrup-Andersen, professor of nutrition and public policy, Cornell
• Raj Patel, Institute for Food and Development Policy
• Jonathan Foley, University of Minnesota
• Michael J. Roberts, economist, North Carolina State University
Put Aside Prejudices
Paul Collier is aprofessor of economics at Oxford University and the director of the Center for the Study of African Economies. He is the author of “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It.”
The debate over genetically modified crops and food has been contaminated by political and aesthetic prejudices: hostility to U.S. corporations, fear of big science andromanticism about local, organic production.
Refusing genetic modification makes a difficult problem more daunting.
Food supply is too important to be the plaything of these prejudices. If there is not enough food we know who will go hungry.
Genetic modification is analogous to nuclear power: nobody loves it, but climate change has made its adoption imperative. As Africa’sclimate deteriorates, it will need to accelerate crop adaptation. As population grows it will need to raise yields. Genetic modification offers both faster crop adaptation and a biological, rather than chemical, approach to yield increases.
Opponents talk darkly of risks but provide no scientific basis for their amorphous expressions of concern. Meanwhile the true risks aremounting. Over the past decade global food demand has risen more rapidly than expected. Supply may not keep pace with demand, inducing rising prices and periodic spikes. If this happens there is a risk that the children of the urban poor will suffer prolonged bouts of malnutrition.
African governments are now recognizing that by imitating the European ban on genetic modification they have notreduced the risks facing their societies but increased them. Thirteen years, during which there could have been research on African crops, have been wasted. Africa has been in thrall to Europe, and Europe has been in thrall to populism.
Genetic modification alone will not solve the food problem: like climate change, there is no single solution. But continuing refusal to use it is making adifficult problem yet more daunting.
The Failure of Gene-Altered Crops
Vandana Shiva is the founder of Navdanya, the movement of 500,000 seed keepers and organic farmers in India. She is author of numerous books, including “The Violence of the Green Revolution” and “Soil, Not Oil.”
Food security over the next two decades will have to be built onecological security and climate resilience. We need the real green revolution, not a second “Green Revolution” based on genetic engineering.
We need biodiversity intensification that works with nature’s nutrient and water cycles, not against them.
Genetic engineering has not increased yields. Recent research by Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists published as a study...
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