Feeding the World in the Twenty-First Century
by therealmaille on April 1, 2014 - 2:52pm
In their text ‘’Feeding the World in the Twenty-First Century” Gordon Conway and Gary Toenniessen explain the necessity of developing biotechnology to feed the population of poor countries. To support their thesis, they emphasize the benefits of the Green Revolution, which significantly decreased the number of hungry people in developing countries. Also, they bring up the statistical evidence of economic advantage that “since the 1970s, world food prices have declined in real terms by over 70 per cent” (153). It is important to note that malnutrition hits mainly the children and women and that it poses severe health risk like anaemia. To further prove their thesis, the two authors bring up the fact that the world population will increase by 1.5 billion from 1999 to 2020, which means a lot more people to feed. This causes a serious problem since the majority of the poor people living in developing countries live in rural areas, where their primary source of food is local agriculture. However, their lands are not very fertile due to harsh weather. Since exporting food to them is not an option because it will create dependence, it is primordial that they use biotechnology in order to assure good harvest. Indeed, plant breeding as many advantages as it increases yields and yields ceiling, “excessive pesticide use [is] reduced, the nutrient value of basic foods [is] increased and farmers on less favoured land [are] provided with varieties better able to tolerate drought, salinity and lack of soil nutrients” (155). However, the major multinationals that produce genetically modified seeds are not interested in investing to create a product designed for developing countries since they represent a weak market. Therefore, there is a need for a public-private collaboration to fund research and the farmers until they are able to buy the seeds by themselves. For example, the Rockefeller Foundation has already started funding rice biotechnology research. These investments from the public-private sector could come as a savior for developing countries as they would permit to increase the nutritional features. For example, three genes producing vitamin A precursor B-carotene were added to the rice produced in areas where they have trouble getting enough of this nutrient. Also, Indian rice was modified to be more resistant to flooding. However, the present patenting of biotechnology is a threat to the further use of GMOs in developing countries. Indeed, private companies are not sharing their new discoveries publicly. This complicates the job of public-sector programmes who aim at giving seeds to poor farmers in developing countries. In order to protect their product, they started using terminator technologies which makes it impossible to reuse the seed of the plant. It is important that they stop using this in developing countries because it slows down the economic growth of poor farmers. They should inversely be selling them their products for cheaper. In order to be accepted throughout the world, it is also essential that private companies better informs the population on the dangers and benefits of GMOs by sharing what they know about their product. It is important to note that each GM crop has its own benefits and danger. This is why they need to do more research about each new species, and developing countries need to increase their biosafety testing, which is presently lacking.
Question: Why do you think developing countries should use or not use biotechnologies in farming?