Biotech solution to food shortage, FAO discusses

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food security, Fao

Food makers in Europe today work under strict guidelines on the
labelling and traceability of genetically modified foodstuffs.
Their rules reflect the deep suspicions in consumer minds today
over the safety of biotech food. But in an open letter this week
the FAO director defends the massive potential of GMOs.

Responding to 'misleading press headlines' circulating about a recent FAO report the Director-General of the UN-backed Food and Agriculture Organisation Dr Jacques Diouf said to feed the forthcoming nine billion world population "we will have to use the scientific tools of molecular biology."

By 2050 the world population is slated to rise from the current six billion people to nine billion in 2050, requiring a massive 60 per cent lift in food production.

"Such a situation will require intensified cultivation, higher yields and greater productivity. With this in mind, we will have to use the scientific tools of molecular biology, in particular the identification of molecular markers, genetic mapping and gene transfer for more effective plant enhancement, going beyond the phenotype-based methods,"​ said Diouf.

He added that the GMOs are 'not needed to achieve the World Food Summit objective' of halving hunger by 2015, a figure currently standing at 850 million, but critics would argue showing little progress.

But Diouf reiterated that the 'rules and utilisation of these techniques [biotechnology] must however be taken at the international level by competent bodies such as the Codex Alimentarius'.

There is also a question of choice. If with 60 per cent lift in food levels needed to feed the population the world may not have a choice. According to the FAO, biotechnology research is essentially driven by the world's top ten transnational corporations - such as Monsanto - which spend about US$3 billion annually.

By comparison, the largest international public sector supplier of agricultural technologies for developing countries, the CGIAR system, has a total annual budget of less than US$300 million.

Related topics: Science, Food labelling

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