When Norman Borlaug won the Nobel peace prize in 1970 for his life-saving work on plant breeding, he said: “you can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs”. With one in every nine people on the planet still considered hungry, Borlaug’s statement has never been more relevant.
Using such statistics, biotechnology proponents have said many times that the world must produce more food in the next 50 years than it has in the last 10,000, and that we are currently using resources 50% faster than the planet can sustain—and that GMO and gene-edited crops can help us tackle both challenges.
It’s easy for well-fed Western environmental activists to dismiss such a message as they lobby to keep crop biotechnology out of Africa. But the fact remains that up-and-coming societies around the globe have the opportunity to save their staple crops, protect their local environments and, most importantly, help their citizens live better lives—and they need to utilize genetic engineering technologies to do it.
In agriculture, genetic engineering helps solve the problem of low-yielding plants crippled by insects and weeds, providing solutions that break through the natural barriers of traditional breeding practices. If conventional methods were used to develop these crops, it would take many more years to breed plants with the desired level of resistance. These are especially important innovations in the developing world, where pests are a bigger threat to farmers who lack access to effective, expensive pesticides.
Read the full article on the Genetic Literacy Project website here
Picture above: A researcher holds late-blight-resistant potatoes and a conventional variety (smaller) from a field trial. Image: International Potato Center