By Richard L. Lobb, Managing Director
Council for Biotechnology Information
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez has strongly reaffirmed the government’s support of agricultural biotechnology as a way to produce the food needed by a growing world population. Biotech can help “produce more food using less land, less water, less fertilizer and less pesticide,” he says.
“Agricultural biotechnology has already shown it can increase crop yields dramatically,” Fernandez says. “Just to give you an idea of how dramatically: Over the past 15 years, agricultural biotechnology has enabled the production of 229 million more tons of food, feed, and fiber.”
In a video released by the State Department, where he is in charge of economic and business affairs, Fernandez said the nations of the world will need to increase global food production 70 percent by the year 2050.
“To put this challenge into perspective, more food will need to be produced in the next 50 years than has been produced during the last 10,000 years combined,” he says. “One proven means of building global food stores is through new technologies, like agricultural biotechnology,” he adds.
In addition to increasing production, biotech has also reduced global pesticide use by nearly nine percent and added $65 billion in economic gains to farmers in developed and developing countries, Fernandez says, and additional improvements are coming.
“Work is underway on new varieties of crops that are drought-tolerant, use nitrogen more efficiently, and are more nutritious,” he noted.
The United States works with governments around the world to promote science-based regulatory systems so that regulators can feel sure that the technologies they approve are safe, Fernandez says. The U.S. will also “spur public outreach to dispel misinformation” and develop partnerships with companies, civil society, and education institutions.
“We know that there are skeptics out there, but as former president, and peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter said, ‘responsible biotechnology is not our enemy; hunger and starvation are,’” Fernandez noted.
“At the end of the day, we’d like frameworks that enable regulators to assure their neighbors that their food is safe, and convince companies to invest in agriculture,” Fernandez concluded. “Through these efforts, we hope to accelerate agricultural productivity to meet the demand for food over the coming decades.”
Watch the full video of Assistant Secretary Fernandez here.