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Fighting World Hunger

Benefits of Food Biotechnology for World Hunger

Despite increasingly limited resources, the world’s population continues to grow at a staggering pace. World population has reached the 6-billion mark, an increase of 1 billion people in the last 12 years alone. The United Nations estimates that figure could reach up to 10.7 billion by the year 2050 – with 95 percent of that growth in some of the world’s poorest regions. At the same time, most of the world’s arable farmland is already being utilized. Environmentally sensitive areas, such as tropical forests, are disappearing at an alarming rate, while the need for new farmlands increases. Many developing countries are struggling with how to continue to feed an exploding population with existing resources.

The use of food biotechnology allows farmers to reap bigger harvests from currently cultivated lands, while sustaining the land’s ability to support continued farming. In addition, by increasing a crop’s ability to withstand environmental factors such as heat and drought, growers will be able to farm in parts of the world currently unsuitable for crop production. Increased food production may also provide developing economies with greater employment opportunities and greater productivity.

The benefits of food biotechnology have not been lost on the larger global audience:

Rice is by far the most important crop in Asia, in some countries accounting for nearly 80 percent of calories consumed. Researchers at the Rockefeller Foundation’s International Rice Biotechnology Program hope to increase rice production in Asia 20 percent by 2005, while minimizing environmental degradation.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, where soil-nutrient depletion and yield losses to pests and disease pose major obstacles for food production, biotechnology holds the promise of increased food production.
In Nepal, biotechnology is used to grow disease-resistant potatoes that increase production yields and decrease production costs.
Food biotechnology is also being used in the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India to increase legume production, a major dietary staple for these areas.
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), the world’s available cultivable land per person has declined steadily since 1960, and will be reduced by half again over the next 50 years. At the same time, in rural, food-producing regions of the developing world, approximately 800 million people are already malnourished, and another 100 million go hungry every day.

The need to provide more plentiful, healthful and environmentally friendly crops will only increase over time. Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, cited recently in Science magazine [Science, vol. 285, 16 July 1999], estimates that global cereal yield will have to increase by 80% over 1990 yields in order to feed the burgeoning world population. Biotechnology may pose one solution to the problems of increasingly resource-poor, hungry nations and a viable alternative to subsistence farming.

U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationIFICEatright.OrgU.S. Department of Agriculture

Grocery Manufacturers of AmericaFarm Bureau U.S. State DepartmentFMINIH

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