Environmentalist discusses benefits of GM crops for global food security
In a Bloomberg column, an environmentalist says Genetically Modified (GM) crops should be part of the solution for preventing global food shortages. Sheril Kirshenbaum, a science writer and research associate at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, points out that golden rice, which is genetically modified with more vitamin A and to improve nutrition, should be made available in developing countries because it “would save thousands of lives, and it would be more cost-effective than providing vitamin supplements or fortifying foods.” Read more.
Reuters: weather unpredictability makes GM crops crucial
According to Reuters, developing countries are choosing to invest in GM crops engineered to grow in droughts or floods to help farmers maintain a food supply despite the challenges of climate change . “If you can’t predict the weather then you can try to beat it-with new genetic strains of grain plants that will boost yields.” Read more.
This week New York Times focused in on pertinent issue of food security, with three articles on how we are going to meet the challenge of feeding the growing population at a time when a warming planet already threatens food supply. In a front page article for the Times titled “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself”, reporter Justin Gillis details some of the challenges facing farmers around the world today, from unpredictable rains to volatile food prices. He writes about the “divine intervention of technology” for many rice farmers in India, who have been part of a field trial for a new variety of rice that is submergence-tolerant and can grow in floods. Read more.
Mr. Gillis followed-up on his piece with a blog post for New York Times Green that dives into the question of how farmers around the world - particularly those in developing countries - can meet food demand. In a post titled “Can the Yield Gap be Closed Sustainably”, he looks at agriculture in Africa and the effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide Africans farmers with advanced crop technologies, such as a genetically modified corn variety that is designed to resist drought. Read more.
In a second blog post, Justin Gillis looks at the effect a growing population, improved diets, scarce water and a shortage of land will have on the future of agriculture, food prices and the environment. To counteract this “clash” he writes that “the list of innovations needed to produce food on a warming planet is long and daunting.” Furthermore, he writes that the innovations need to come not just from private companies, but also governments, universities and foundations. He explains that we need a broad array of institutions working together to develop the next big idea to meet this challenge. Read more.
Lastly, keeping in the theme of innovations that will help us meet future food supply challenges, we wanted to share this very cool infographic produced in partnership by GOOD and the Gates Foundation. The infographic looks at the innovations that will help African farmers thrive. In particular, it shows that with better maize (corn) varieties that have been genetically engineered to survive on less water, farmers in Africa can achieve 30% more yield in drought-prone areas.
U.S. Representative supports expediting approval process for Genetically Modified (GM) crops
According to The Commercial Appeal, Rep. Stephen Fincher from Tennessee has introduced a bill to streamline the approval process for GM crops, which he says are necessary to help feed a rapidly growing population.
The Expediting Agriculture Through Science (EATS) Act would require regulators to speed up the approval process for these advanced crops. “We need to streamline, make sure it’s a more thorough process, one that’s responsible, transparent and accountable,” Rep. Fincher said. Read more.
Gates Foundation funds GM rice to improve yields of African small farmers
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the creation of GM rice to help Africa’s small farmers increase yields and withstand higher temperatures, BBC reports.
“Unfortunately these poor farmers are going to be facing warmer climates because of global warming so I think it is appropriate to employ whatever tools we can use that are safe and affordable for them,” Mr. Gates said. “I absolutely think that, in some of those cases, genetic modification is how we will get them the new seeds.” Read more.