Summary of "Feeding the World in the Twenty-First Century"
by yeldarbnessumsar on March 31, 2014 - 11:12pm
The article “Feeding the World in the Twenty-First Century” by agricultural ecologist Dr. Gordon Conway and microbiologist Dr. Gary Toenniessen has the main idea that genetically modified crops are a solution to world hunger problems as well as nutrient deficiencies in poverty stricken areas. First, they explain that advances in plant biotechnology resulting in large crop yields have peaked while the population of developing countries continues to grow. The article also describes the way that “since the 1970s, world food prices have declined [...] by over 70 per cent” (Conway and Toenniessen 153). This is advantageous to poorer people but they are still lacking in nutrients such as vitamin A. Next, they explain how food s not distributed equally around the planet and there is no sign of this changing in the future. This, combined with the fact that many of the poorest areas rely on agriculture for sustenance are reasons supporting the need for a second Green Revolution. This second Green Revolution would require newer biotechnology to increase crop yields and the aid of the farmers to maintain a good relationship with the environment. The next part of the article explains that crops need to be modified so that they can be more resistant to pests, weeds and low quality soil seeing as most poor farmers are in areas with unfavourable soil. Sadly, all of these genetically modified crops are created by large corporations that do not care for poor farmers so can have high prices. Therefore there is a need to find a way for the private companies and the public to collaborate. The authors then go to defining the concept of input versus output, where better input means it is easier to grow while higher output means that there will be higher yields. As stated earlier, vitamin A deficiency is a big problem but a potential solution has been found in “the introduction of genes into rice that result in the production of the vitamin A precursor ϸ-carotene” (156). The next big problem concerning food in developing countries is the large biotechnology companies always need a monetary incentive. To accomplish this they create plants that cannot reproduce naturally so that the farmers need to purchase new seed after each harvest. A potential solution can be found in selling hybrid plants that produce usable seed but that simply become less productive the more they are re-used. The next big problem arises because companies can now patent certain biological advances which can allow them to exploit the farmers. The success of the last Green Revolution can be attributed to the fact that everyone worked together to help solve world hunger and genetic technologies were free to be reproduced by different companies. Finally, some solutions are discussed such as the companies allowing their technologies to be used at no cost in developing countries or for these same companies to stop creating plants that cannot produce viable seed. Most importantly, the companies as well as the farmers need to start working with one another to find sustainable ways to inexpensively raise crop yields. This collaboration should also help to gain the public acceptance of genetically modified crops which are often seen as health and environmental hazards.
Do you think that the private companies will be able to work with one another as well as with the farmers to create a more financially and environmentally sustainable way of farming? Why or why not?