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"Top scientist says GM crops are the answer to food price crisis"
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Quotes and minimal comment

  • "Genetically modified crops hold the key to solving the food price crisis, the government's former chief scientific adviser has said."
  • "There is only one technology likely to deliver [the yield increases needed] and that is GM."

ecoglobe>
We don't see how genetically modified crops could be the answer to a crisis, which is immediate.
Plant modification is longer term and has no guaranteed outcome. One cannot reasonably expect that one could continue to modify plants and steadily increase their productivity.
The acclaimed increas of resistance against pests and weeds has a theoretical limit at 100 percent.
Any plant with higher yield will need higher inputs, that is soil nutrients and fertilisers. But these are facing reduced availability, as both natural phosphate and oil-based fertilisers will be getting scarcer.
The onset of Peak Oil will also reduce agricultural production because of tractor fuel scarcity.
The population continues to grow, along with resource-inefficient meat-eating. How could GM be expected to keep up?
Sir David King has understood preciously little of this kind of ecological dependencies, it seems.

Also see
  • "Progress in Farming is Leveling off" - FT 10.6.2008
  • "Malawi cultivates cash gains for its farmers" - FT 10.6.2008
  • "Hostility to the notion of limits to growth" (with readers' comments)
  • "A world bursting at the seams" - Jeffrey Sachs
    Environmental developments:
  • The day of "Peak oil", i.e. the highest daily amount of oil extracted, is approaching. It is expected within one to twenty years. Thereafter petroleum will be used for prioritary applications. (compare fossil energy developments)
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    "Top scientist says GM crops are the answer to food price crisis"

    By Fiona Harvey and George Parker Published: July 7 2008

    Genetically modified crops hold the key to solving the food price crisis, the government's former chief scientific adviser has said.

    The intervention by Sir David King, one of the UK's most influential scientists and the government's top science official until the end of last year, comes amid growing signs that GM, long viewed with suspicion by consumers and some governments, is being rehabilitated as affordability is weighed against ethical or safety scruples.

    Speaking in the wake of Nestlé's call for the European Union to review its opposition to GM, and hints from Phil Woolas, environment minister, that a rethink could be on the cards, Sir David told the Financial Times: "There is only one technology likely to deliver [the yield increases needed] and that is GM."

    However, Gordon Brown signalled a reluctance to make the case for genetic modification yesterday. A Cabinet Office paper on food to be published today calls for the removal of "productivity restrictions" but insiders damped down suggestions it presaged a big push for GM.

    "He has always believed that the debate needs to be led by science, not by politicians," said one of Mr Brown's aides. "You can talk about it all you like, but it's no good if people don't want to eat it."

    Sir David said the need to produce more food was pressing. "If you take the pressure of burgeoning population . . . we need a third green revolution," referring to two waves of innovation in agriculture that helped to increase crop yields sharply in Asia in the past 50 years.

    Factors such as changing diets, global warming and pressure on fresh water supplies meant even if the food price crisis eased, the long-term prospects for producing enough food without new biotechnology were poor, Sir David said. Ordinary plant breeding programmes could not produce varieties fast enough.

    "We need more crop per drop [of water] because of the fresh water problem. Unless you move into plant technologies to develop these crops, food provision is not going to increase," he said. "The future lies there [with GM]. And this is urgent."

    Only GM crops could be bred with enough tolerance of drought and salt to survive the problems caused by climate change and increasing pressure on the world's scarce supplies of fresh water, he said. Any system for using GM crops should be "properly regulated" by governments

    Copyright The Financial Times - reproduced for scientific reference purposes only.