Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Biotechnology and Food Security

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Biotechnology and Food Security

Article excerpt

Genetically engineered (GE) foods apply new molecular technologies to agriculture. Widely adopted in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina for the production of com, soybeans, and cotton, they are practically banned in Europe and tightly regulated throughout the world. We have found that GE foods have significantly increased supplies of corn, soybean, and cotton, and lowered their prices, thus improving food security. GE foods have already contributed to a reduction in the use of pesticides and emissions of greenhouse gases. We show that expanded adoption of GE foods can further enhance food security and adaptation to climate change. Sound redesign of regulation will increase investment in GE varieties and help to allow development of new traits that will further improve human welfare.

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The global human population has increased sevenfold from one billion to seven billion people since 1850. At the same time, food availability per capita has increased and the amount of land area used for farming has tripled, but farming captures a smaller share of the global workforce. (1) Gradual agricultural production intensification through increased reliance on the use of synthetic inputs like fertilizer and pesticides and the increased use of irrigation have led to these trends. (2) Yet, despite the abundance produced by modern agriculture, a large percentage of the global population remains vulnerable to food shortages. (3)

There are a variety of reasons for food shortages, ranging from effects from weather to economic and political shocks, all of which pose risks of potential malnourishment and starvation to populations. (4) The combined trends of population growth and increases in income will cause unprecedented increases in food demand that will challenge agricultural production. (6) Additionally, the transition away from non-renewable fuels and other sources of non-renewable raw materials may challenge agriculture to expand its range of production to include products such as biofuel and biochemicals as sources of fuel. (7)

In order to meet these challenges, society needs to establish the institutions and research capacity necessary to reduce reliance on petrochemicals. Such capacity can be achieved through the formation of a bioeconomy in which agricultural and renewable resource production provide fuel and fine chemicals. (8) One aspect that is emphasized here is the crucial role of agricultural biotechnology, especially in the context of food security. Through research and innovation, agriculture is undergoing processes of improved adaptation, with the aim of increasing productivity while reducing the environmental side effects of production. While the use of biotechnology is controversial, we will argue that these tools have already improved the global food situation by increasing supply and reducing prices. Furthermore, policy reforms that avoid banning these technologies, weigh the risks and benefits of regulating these new technologies, and further invest in research can contribute to expanding the food supply for global populations.

The first section of this paper will define and address the challenge of food security in the context of sustainable development. The second section will provide an overview of agricultural biotechnology and its accomplishments thus far. The third section will address some of the impacts of genetic engineering (GE) technology on resources, health, and the environment. This will be followed by a discussion of policy reforms that can improve GE utilization in the future and recommendations for next steps.

FOOD SECURITY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Two of the major objectives of resource policy design are to enhance food security and pursue sustainable development. The best way to look at food security is through a reduction in food insecurity, which is the probability that individuals will suffer a negative outcome due to a lack of available food. …

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