Telegraph News: Food prices could double without GM foods, scientists warn
January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
Food prices could double without GM foods, scientists warn
Food prices could double unless farming undergoes the “greenest revolution” including genetic modification, cloned livestock and nanotechnology, scientists have warned.
The Government-commissioned report said the current system of food production is not working as farms are focused on mass production that is destroying the environment.
While billions of people around the world are hungry and malnourished, more than a billion others are suffering health problems because of obesity
This problem is likely to get worse as the population rises and agricultural land becomes increasingly scarce because of climate change and environmental degradation.
The authors of the report pointed out that for the first time in 100 years food prices are going up rather than down. Food prices as a whole could rise by around 50 per cent by 2050, impacting on everyone from British families to consumers in China.
Certain essential foods like maize could double in price leaving hundreds of millions of people hungry in poor countries in Africa.
The report warned that the crisis could lead to conflict and mass migration as huge numbers of people are forced to move in search food.
The Future of Food and Farming report was commissioned by the Government amid fears of food riots around the world as prices are already rising.
Sir John Beddington, the Government’s chief advisor said action must be taken to ‘redesign the whole food system’.
He said the world must start to produce more food on less land in a process known as ‘sustainable intensification’.
This will mean looking at a number of new technologies, including GM and cloning cows, as well as using existing systems to improve yields in poor countries.
“New technologies such as the genetic modification of living organisms and the use of cloned livestock and nanotechnology should not be excluded a priori on ethical or moral grounds, though there is a need to respect the views of people who take a contrary view,” the report stated.
But Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth’s Food Campaigner, warned GM is not a silver bullet.
“The report pins its hope on GM technology when crop science has moved on. Other technologies have delivered drought-resistant plants while GM crops have proved to be a disaster for the environment and farmers,” she said.
“Feeding the world without trashing it means supporting small farmers to feed local communities, wasting less and rethinking our diets.”
In Britain GM could be used within ten years to produce more potatoes, wheat and sugar beet. British agriculture will also be expected to farm in a more environmentally friendly way, in order to retain water and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The report said that a change in consumer choices in developed countries like the UK can also help to feed more people. For example if people choose to eat less red meat raised in factory farms. British people could also reduce waste and recyle food for energy.
Professor Jules Pretty, of the University of Essex, said feeding the world will mean employing a range of different measures, from organic farming using animal waste to drought resistant GM plants.
He said that – following the “green revolution”, which massively boosted agricultural production in the 20th century, there needed to be the “greenest revolution” to improve agriculture without harming nature.
“Both organic methods and GM are going to be important. We need to get beyond these binary options,” he said, calling for a “both/and” approach to farming methods rather than an “either/or”.
Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, backed calls for the “greenest revolution”.
She said countries like Britain will drive the change by sharing advanced as well as simple technologies with developing countries and reforming the market to ensure all countries are paid to produce sustainable food.
“We can unlock an agricultural revolution, which would benefit the poorest the most, simply by improving access to knowledge and technology, creating better access to markets and investing in infrastructure,” she said.
More than 400 scientists contributed to the report that will now inform policy making around the world.