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How we can feed the world with GMOs and organic farming

| | August 15, 2014

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The world’s population, which has been climbing rapidly for more than a century, is expected to increase by about 2 billion more by 2050, to between 9 and 10 billion — an increase of about 30 percent.

But because global prosperity also will increase over the next few decades, many people will have the opportunity to improve their diets, and global food demand actually will increase much more quickly — by 70 percent, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to 100 percent, according to others.

Meanwhile, global climate change will make farming more difficult. And we will need to produce food more sustainably so that agriculture’s impact on the environment can be reduced. We’ve already identified the technologies and policies that can let us raise enough food for 9 billion people on the land we’re using now to feed 7 billion. These include:

  • Precision farming: advances in data science and information technology (IT) that help farmers know where and when to plant and water and fertilize.
  • Agricultural biologicals: topical or seed treatment products that contain natural materials like plant extracts or beneficial microbes, or are made from them. They complement or replace agricultural chemical products for weed, insect, and disease control.
  • Some organic farming techniques: cover crops and other practices that conserve water and improve soil quality.
  • Advanced breeding: new breeding methods that don’t involve GMOs but do rely on sophisticated computer analysis and other high-tech techniques.
  • GMO crops.

We shouldn’t let disagreements over that one tool distract or delay us from pursuing the others. All the approaches I’ve listed above would provide us with what’s called “sustainable intensification” — the ability to grow more on the same amount of land, in a way that continues to preserve our environment. We need to move ahead with them immediately.

Read the full, original article: Let’s use organic and GMOs to feed the world

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