A review of available scientific evidence about genetically modified (GM) crops clearly indicates their benefits for environmental sustainability and managing drought, according to an article by New Scientist.
“By reducing the need for tilling, for example, GM crops have enabled farmers to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, a small but important contribution to the fight against climate change. And GM promises more: creating drought-resistant crops that will thrive in the warmer climates of the future, for instance,” it points out in the October issue of the magazine.
The journal notes that considering biotechnology along with other agricultural traditions is necessary to develop solutions for “more productive, sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture.” Read more.
Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development at Harvard—and “one of the most innovative thinkers on how to harness new technologies for economic development”—believes genetically modified (GM) crops are a necessary agricultural solution to help address the challenges of climate change and population growth, a Council on Foreign Relations blog states.
“It doesn’t make sense to reduce the size of the toolbox when the challenges are expanding,” Dr. Juma said in an interview with Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He predicts in 2012 “there will be more GM crops grown in developing countries than in developed countries.” READ MORE »
Dr. Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard Kennedy School and author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa (Oxford University Press, 2011), writes a guest blog discussing the implications of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2011 report on major developments impacting biotech crop adoption worldwide.
By Calestous Juma
This year’s announcement by ISAAA that the adoption of transgenic crops continues to expand at 8% per year since 1996-when biotech crops first became available to U.S. farmers- is a signal of the transformational role that biotechnology is already having on agriculture. ISAAA reports that biotech crops contributed to mitigating climate change, alleviating poverty and improving global food security. Most notably, it states that between 1996 and 2010, biotech crops increased “crop production and value by $78 billion.” In 2010 alone, the technology contributed to “conserving biodiversity by saving 91 million hectares of land; and helped alleviate poverty by helping 15.0 million small farmers who are some of the poorest people in the world.”
The evidence is stacking up against critics of biotechnology. Earlier claims that transgenic crops were likely to have dramatic negative impacts on the environment will not continue to enjoy the kind of support they did 15 years ago. What is needed now is a more balanced assessment that looks at all the evidence available to date to determine the role of biotechnology in addressing climate change and global food needs.
A key takeaway from the 17th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) is the need for international cooperation to address the challenges of climate change in places like Africa, where drought and other severe weather conditions have contributed to poor crop production and starvation.
In a Science Magazine article, Calestous Juma, professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, calls on international organizations to help Africa and other developing countries meet food demands and drive economic growth through expanding access to agricultural biotechnology.
Professor Juma proposes the development of an intergovernmental agency that “would help African countries adopt biotechnology strategies enabling African farmers and the population at large to benefit from the world’s wealth of scientific and technological knowledge.” Read more.
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.