Prof Jack Heinemann
1st November, 2008
Can food crops really be engineered to thrive - and to yield more - under drought conditions? After 25 years we're still waiting for the flood of evidence, says Prof Jack Heinemann
Claims that genetic engineering would produce drought-resistant varieties were made 25 years ago
Finding a solution to global hunger is a global priority. It is also the driving force behind the current push to bring genetically modified crops into the marketplace. These crops, it is claimed, will increase food production through increased yields, and will, in addition, process certain traits that will allow them to withstand the ravage of climate change, such as drought.
Global hunger is not caused by insufficient food production, however, but by our failure to have food where it is needed. According to the authoritative report produced by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a multi-UN agency project, it is human behaviour that causes starvation and malnutrition, rather than the global deficit of food. The demand for plant-based gasoline and diesel, for example, and the heavy agricultural subsidies of wealthy nations – both are causes of world hunger, and both could be changed by an act of human will alone.
The interaction of human behaviour and the environment limits food availability and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Climate change, the intensification and expansion of agriculture, and competing demands for resources...
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