This month the European Commission released the results from a ten-year study that examined the environmental, health and social impacts of GMOs. The study finds that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, pose no more health or environmental risks than conventionally bred crops. In addition, the report states that we must not overlook GMOs in our efforts to address the challenges of the 21st century, including a growing population, a changing climate and limited fossil fuel resources.
The publication presents the results of 50 projects, involving more than 400 research groups and representing European Union research grants of 200M Euros (approximately $300 million). The publication builds on a report released by the commission in 2001 that studied the impacts of GMOs for fifteen years.
The European Commission writes in the foreword to the report that “biotechnology is not a purely academic exercise: its findings and developments will lead to applications and products essential to society.” You can read the full report here.
We’re here in Iowa where Sec. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, just gave the welcoming address this morning at the “Global Virtual Town Hall: A Global Story of Crop Biodiversity Success” at Iowa State University.
He emphasized the need to utilize all tools for helping to meet the world’s demand to feed a growing population. However, these technologies must be developed and customized to meet the needs of the local community.
We must use all systems of food production to meet the need to grow more food. Science is essential in this process. Farmers around the world are also critical contributors to the global food system. We need sustainable land management practices and science-based systems that support not only feeding the world but also protecting the environment and maximizing opportunities for supporting biodiversity.
Divide and conquer approach won’t help feed the world. Agricultural biotechnology vs. local, organic will only result in losses on both sides; we need to bring the two together.
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.
The University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment produced an excellent video that asks the big question “how will we feed a growing population without destroying the planet?” The video shares some sobering facts that underline the enormity of the challenges before us, but also provides solutions and ideas on ways to improve agricultural productivity.
UMN Institute on the Environment Director Jonathan Foley wrote a piece that corresponds with the video and discusses “the other” inconvenient truth: “a global crisis in land use and agriculture that could undermine the health, security and sustainability of our civilization.”
You can watch the video below and also find it on the Institute’s site. You can read Mr. Foley’s piece here.
Last week’s climate talks in Copenhagen produced a draft agreement forming an international working group to reduce global warming emissions from the agriculture sector. According to The New York Times Green Inc. blog, the creation of this group reflects the “rising importance of agriculture in the climate change debate.”
The group will aim to mitigate the carbon emissions from crop and livestock cultivation by focusing on technologies, such as agricultural biotechnology, that can strengthen food security in developing nations despite rising temperatures and an increasing population.
You can learn more about the international working group on agriculture here.