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Post Info TOPIC: Genetically modified food, is it the answer to world's hunger?

Genetically modified food, is it the answer to world's hunger?

Soon we will be eating genetically modified food more than organic food. Is this really the solution to address the issue to hunger, especially in 3rd world countries?

Are there genetically modified foods available in Laos?

UK urged to lead on future food

BBC, 21 Oct 2009

The UK should plough £2bn ($3.3bn) into crop research to help stave
off world hunger, says the Royal Society.

It says the world's growing population means food production will have
to rise by about 50% in 40 years and the UK can lead the research

Approaches it endorses include genetic modification, improved
irrigation and systems of growing crops together that reduce the
impact of diseases.

It says that rising yields have brought "complacency" over food

Earlier in the year, the G8 pledged to spend $20bn (£12bn) improving
food security for the developing world.

The Royal Society's report, Reaping the Benefits: Science and the
Sustainable Intensification of Global Agriculture, concludes that
science has to have a significant role if the food supply is to be
maintained in 2050, when the world population may have reached nine

The Green Revolution that created new high-yielding strains of crops
such as rice and maize in the 1950s and 60s reduced hunger and
improved food security, it says, but a new push is needed quickly.

"We need to take action now to stave off food shortages," said
Professor Sir David Baulcombe from Cambridge University who chaired
the study.

"If we wait even five to 10 years, it may be too late.

"In the UK we have the potential to come up with viable scientific
solutions for feeding a growing population, and we have a
responsibility to realise this potential."

GM divide

In June, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said there were now
one billion hungry people in the world - "the first time in history"
there had been so many.

Although it said rising unemployment and lower incomes were to blame
for recent increases in the number of hungry people, investment in
science to increase the supply of food was also needed.

The Royal Society says the UK should spend £200m per year for the next
10 years on food-oriented research.

Short-term plans could involve improving irrigation so water is used
more efficiently, and promoting management patterns where plants are
grown together for the benefit of crops.

Techniques include growing plants around the edges of agricultural
fields that attract predators of insect pests.

Investment should also go into advanced plant-breeding technologies,
including genetic modification.

Although acknowledging the approach can lead to problems such as the
unwanted spread of inserted genes into neighbouring wild plants, it
says the genetic modification can in principle produce crop strains
resistant to disease, drought, salinity, heat and toxic heavy metals.

Experimental strains resistant to drought and salinity are showing
promise, it says - conclusions that were welcomed by the Agricultural
Biotechnology Council (ABC), the UK group representing companies in
the field.

"Food security is one of the biggest challenges we currently face,"
said ABC's chairman Julian Little.

"Advanced crop breeding using biotechnology and GM methods... are
already being used by more than 13 million farmers around the world
and helping to deliver higher and more reliable crop yields while
mitigating major threats to crop production, such as damaging effects
of pests, diseases and droughts."

But environmental groups were less enthusiastic.

"The bottom line is that governments have made the wrong R&D
investments, focusing research on unrealised biotech solutions, rather
than on the needs of poorer farmers", said Becky Price, a researcher
with GeneWatch UK.

"The use of transgenics is often described as a powerful tool. However
to date, the only widely used traits developed by genetic modification
are herbicide tolerance and Bt insect resistance."

Herbicide tolerant crops are made resistant to a proprietary
weedkiller, while Bt crops include genes that produce an insect-
killing toxin.

The Royal Society also said that climate change is likely to increase
the scale of the "challenge" ahead, by decreasing crop yields in most
parts of the world.

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