The fast pace of population growth and high consumption behaviors make it necessary to double global food production by 2050. A presentation at the 2012 Greenbiz Forum discusses the importance of increasing crop yields without using more natural resources.
Jon Foley, Director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Minnesota, points out in the presentation that improving resource efficiency through using less land and water “could add 50 to 60 percent more food to the world with almost no impact on the environment.” Other experts have noted that biotechnology has the ability to boost the amount of food production per acre while better managing water resources, particularly in the face of drought or water shortages. Read more.
According to physicians interviewed by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, biotechnology contributes to a safe, nutritious and more abundant food supply. Their insights shed light on issues important to consumers today, including food labeling, food security and sustainable agriculture.
On the topic of food labeling, Dr. Laurie Green, an obstetrician-gynecologist in San Francisco, California, points out that labels on foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients could be confusing to consumers. “It’s much more important to label items that might truly cause harm than [genetically modified] foods that have been used for 20 years in 29 countries and consumed by millions and millions of people,” she said.
Dr. Green also discussed the benefits of biotechnology for sustainable agriculture. “Biotechnology has led to foods that require less pesticides, fewer herbicides, and even combat viruses that damage crops, so overall these methodologies have so improved the quality of our environment and the quality of our food supply,” she said.
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The challenge of feeding a growing world population demands the use of new technologies, including biotechnology, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said Wednesday.
“I don’t think you can make a quantum leap in food production without embracing new technologies, including biotechnology,” he said. “We have to not be afraid of new technology. We have to make sure we have good science, so that safety is a priority. But we won’t be able to meet the ultimate threat without going down this road,” he said.
Glickman spoke during a panel discussion sponsored by AGree, a program addressing food and agricultural policy. He said he raised questions about biotech during his tenure at the Department of Agriculture (1995-2001), but ultimately became convinced of the safety and efficacy of biotechnology.
As the latest indication of increasing global support for science-based agricultural solutions, a landmark declaration by governments from 24 African countries officially endorsed the use of biotechnology to help Africa address food security and poverty.
This year, policymakers and scientists from several African countries, including Ghana and Kenya, have made strides in agricultural biotechnology through local research and hunger-fighting initiatives. However, the significant endorsement made through a joint statement signed by all delegates at the 2nd Annual Dialogue of Ministers of Agriculture, Science and Technology was one of the strongest demonstrations to date of broad support across Africa.
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Meeting the urgent need for food for a growing global population will require the use of all types of plant breeding, including biotechnology, according to an editorial in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
“Even more importantly, it will necessitate a reemphasis on innovation, greater diversification of the agrochemical and agbiotech industry, streamlining and harmonization of regulatory oversight, and an end to the political grandstanding that has characterized the agbiotech debate so far,” said the article in a publication of Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world.
Biotechnology is safe and should be fully deployed, the editorial states.
“There is no scientific uncertainty about whether crops generated via transgenesis are riskier than conventionally produced varieties,” it says. “They simply are not! And thus regulatory oversight should be reined in, not ramped up.” Read more.