Biotechnology and Future Food Supply

Article excerpt

Child malnutrition and food insecurity are likely to remain widespread in 2020, according to World Food Prospects, a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a think tank in Washington, D.C.

The broader application of biotechnology in agriculture could brighten the global food scenario in coming decades. In developing countries, where 60% to 70% of poor people live in rural areas, transgenic plants could help farmers increase yields. Pest- and drought-resistant crop varieties could also lower farmers' production risks, boost their incomes, and reduce food prices among the poor, who often spend half their incomes on food, according to the IFPRI. Plants that have been bioengineered for extra iron or vitamin A could help alleviate nutritional deficiencies among undernourished populations.

Most commercial development of transgenic seed so far has occurred in the United States, with some smaller-scale activity in Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, and China. Efforts to export genetically modified foods into the European marketplace have been opposed by the European Union, which has placed restrictions on biotechnology for agriculture.

"The opposition is driven in part by the perceived lack of consumer benefits of the transgenic foods available to date, uncertainty about possible negative health and environmental effects, and a widespread perception that a few large corporations will be the primary beneficiaries of modern biotechnology for agriculture," write IFPRI editors Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Rajul Pandya-Lorch, and Mark W. …