How to Feed Seven Billion People
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the world today is how to feed seven billion people and ensure that no child ever goes to bed hungry.
Agricultural biotechnology holds great hope for meeting this challenge by increasing crop yields, preserving and improving soils, enhancing the control of pests, weeds and harmful diseases and producing more healthful food with enhanced vitamin and nutrient levels.
How do we feed the world in an environmentally sustainable way and make the foods we consume safer and healthier? Here's how:
Increase Crop Yields
Agricultural biotechnology produces dramatic increases in cotton, soybeans and corn - all staple crops that feed and clothe millions. The current global average is one-third of a ton of grain to sustain one person for one year. Therefore, an additional 16 million tons of corn produced through biotechnology could potentially feed 48 million people. The ability to improve crops by introducing multiple traits will likely produce even higher crop yields in the future.
Diseases and pests currently reduce global food production by more than 35 percent, at a cost of more than $200 billion a year. Corn and cotton seeds enhanced with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacteria used widely in conventional and organic agriculture, have a built-in defense against the most threatening insects, reducing the need for pesticides. These new corn and cotton varieties save farmers time and money, while also lessening the impact of agriculture on the environment. Through biotechnology common crops like cotton, corn, soybeans and canola can be grown using conservation tillage, resulting in less plowing and healthier soils.
Improving Animals for Public Health and Sustainability
Advances in the area of genetically engineered animals provide tools to improve human health via production of novel proteins, vaccines, drugs and tissues for prevention of disease. In order to feed a growing population, genetically engineered livestock can be produced that use feed more efficiently and produce less manure.
Today, more than 13.3 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotech processes. Since their introduction in the 1990s, biotech crops have been grown on more than 2.3 billion acres of farmland worldwide. Countries on all six settled continents have authorized biotech crops for their farmers. Almost 93 percent of the farmers growing biotech crops are from "small and resource-poor farmers from developing countries such as China, India, Philippines and South Africa."
Source: Healing, Fueling, Feeding: How Biotechnology is Enriching Your Life
More information on biotechnology in agriculture