ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

6 March 2003


'The introduction of genetically-modified crops is not critical, says the FAO report: "Agricultural production could probably meet expected demand until 2030 even without major advances in modern biotechnology." '

Note that's biotechnology as a whole, ie not just genetic engineering.

And is it beyond the wit of man to come up with a less hazardous way forward than genetic engineering in the considerable intervening period?


World hunger will almost halve by 2030

The New Scientist Online, 04 March 02
Debora MacKenzie

The number of chronically hungry people in the world is set to fall from 776 million now to 440 million in 2030,  says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. But instead  of halving by 2015 - the goal adopted by the 1996 World  Food Summit - the number of the undernourished will fall  only by 11 per cent by that time.

 These are the predictions of a detailed model of world  food trends published in full on Tuesday by the FAO,  updating its 1996 forecast. It concludes that global grain  production will have to rise every year by 1.2 per cent to  meet the demand for food and feed. This is 17 per cent  higher that the 1990s average. The FAO thinks the increase  can be achieved, but notes that rich countries will have to  export more, as the rising need for grain in the developing  world outstrips local increases in production. Maximum  output In contrast to other more pessimistic analyses, the  report says the area of land under crops can increase by 20  per cent by 2030, even with a slower rate of deforestation  worldwide. But it concedes that the bulk of the production  increases - up to 80 per cent - must come from boosting  yields per hectare. The FAO rejects the conclusions of  other analysts, such as Lester Brown of the Earth Policy  Institute in Washington, that such yield increases are  unlikely. These analysts fear that the halving in the  annual growth rate of grain production since the 1980s is a  sign that land, water and the biological potential of crops  to turn fertiliser into grain is reaching a maximum. The  FAO says yield increases have slowed because of a fall in  demand caused by slowing population growth - and the  inability of people without money to turn their need for  grain into market demand.

Salt-infested soils

It says yields can grow through more intense crop  production, more harvests per year - mainly made possible  by more irrigation - and new technology in areas where land  and water are scarce, such as farming with less ploughing.

 The introduction of genetically-modified crops is not  critical, says the FAO report: "Agricultural production  could probably meet expected demand until 2030 even without  major advances in modern biotechnology."

 But if the technology is "affordable and geared towards  the needs of the poor", specially engineered crops could  help dry, acid, waterlogged or salt-infested soils grow  more.

There are important exceptions to the FAO's good news  on hunger reductions. In south Asia and, especially,  Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty will continue to grow. As a  result, the number of chronically undernourished people in  Africa will only have fallen marginally by 2030, from 194  million to 183 million people.
Dr Suzanne Wuerthele, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicologist: "This technology is being promoted, in the face of concerns by respectable scientists and in the face of data to the contrary, by the very agencies which are supposed to be protecting human health and the environment. The bottom line in my view is that we are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences."

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