This week, a scientific study out of South Africa shows that GM crops could help alleviate food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa and a scientist expresses concern over global food production.
Scientist warns of potential for global famine
In a keynote speech at the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference, Australian biotechnology expert Julian Cribb warned governments across the globe that a worldwide famine is a possibility and that they must find a way to more than double food production in the next century. According to AOLNews, Cribb considers this potential food shortage to be more pressing than the global financial and climate change crises.
Academy of Science of South Africa report says GM Crops can help alleviate food shortage
A recently released report from the Academy of Science of South Africa shares that “agricultural biotechnology…can be one of the most vital tools for addressing the chronic food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa.” The Academy’s research found that GM crops increase yields, improve the protein content of starchy foods and the biofortification of local foods. Currently South Africa is one of only three countries in the continent growing commercial GM crops. Read more.
Indian farmers adopt flood-tolerant rice at unprecedented rates
IRRI, a rice research institute, has found that Indian farmers are planting flood-tolerant rice at an unprecedented rate. While the rice is not commercially available yet, IRRI is working with governments, nonprofit organizations and public and private organizations to promote and distribute the genetically modified rice to areas prone to flooding. Within one year of release, the submergence-tolerant, high-yielding rice variety has reached more than 100,000 farmers in India. Read more.
Global food production on agenda at global conference
The Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference (ABIC) begins this Sunday in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and will focus on the challenges facing global food production. Five keynote and 66 expert speakers in three areas — energy, health and sustainability — will present during the four-day conference, which will have about 1,000 international delegates.
According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, the biofortification of staple foods is still relevant in poor countries, despite gains in income and urbanization. The authors of the study, titled Integrated Economic Modeling of Global and Regional Micronutrient Security, suggest that low-income rural populations will continue to derive much of their diets from staple foods, such ascereal grains in South Asia, and roots and tubers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Kofi Annan awarded Norman E. Borlaug medallion
The World Food Prize Foundation this week awarded the Norman E. Borlaug medallion to Kofi Annan during the first-ever African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Annan’s home country of Ghana. According to the World Food Prize press release, Annan was selected for the award based on his “international leadership as Secretary-General of the United Nations and as chairman of the board for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. In both roles, Annan has brought significant attention to the issue of global food security, most notably in establishing the UN Millennium Development Goals during his time at the United Nations.”
This week, we’re asking our readers to take CBI’s quiz to see how much you know about ag biotech and to provide feedback on the information you want to see from CBI. All quiz-takers will be eligible to win a copy of the acclaimed book Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food! Now, for other exciting ag biotech news…
Biotechnology is essential to African food security
At a roundtable discussion, Ghanaian biosafety and biotechnology expert Prof. Walter Alhassan stressed that agricultural biotechnology is crucial to his country dealing effectively with food security issues and the impact of a changing and less predictable climate. He added that “after 14 years of commercial use of genetic modification (GM) crops, no scientifically proved risk has been confirmed due to GM application.” Ghana’s National Biosafety Committee will soon be considering applications to permit field trials of protein-enhanced sweet potatoes and insect protected cowpea in the country. Learn more.
Recent anti-biotech ruling on GM beet sugar harms farmers and consumers
A recent federal district court ruling that limits the application of genetically modified beet sugar will have a negative impact on the price and availability of sugar in America, according to a Forbes article. Genetically modified beet sugar accounts for 95 percent of all sugar grown in the United States. The court ruling, which requires a more intensive environmental impact study by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (the agency that already approved the GM beets in 2005) will result in uncertainty in the sugar marketplace, hurting farmers and consumers. Learn more.
McKinsey & Co. released a report that communicates a positive outlook for the future of biofuels, while Sierra Leonean scientist and recipient of the 2004 World Food Prize, Monty Jones, called for more awareness among individuals about genetic engineering and the benefits it can bring to Africa.
State Deparment official Dr. Nina Fedoroff discusses the advantages of genetically modified crops
Fora.tv featured a lecture by Dr. Nina Fedoroff, Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State, titled “Genetically Modified Crops: Monsters or Miracles?” In the lecture Dr. Fedoroff discusses the role that GM foods can play in food security as the population rises to 9 billion. She also addresses the promise of Golden Rice, rice engineered to help the body produce Vitamin A so children do not die or go blind from Vitamin A deficiency, a common problem in the developing world.
Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman and head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes about the importance of achieving both agricultural productivity and sustainability. As head of the largest foundation in the world, Mr. Gates has made a $1.4 billion commitment to small farmers for reducing global hunger through approaches that include agricultural technology.
Mr. Gates writes, “I have seen proof that agricultural science can make people’s lives better” and points to advances like the Swarna-sub1 Rice, a seed variety that can survive underwater for more than two weeks and help farmers in places that are prone to floods. According to Bill Gates, the next “Green Revolution” must help feed a billion people using modern technology in a sustainable manner.