NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Biotechnology Would Serve Billions And Billions More

May 22, 2000

McDonald's, J.R. Simplot Co. (a McDonald's supplier), Gerber and Heinz, Frito-Lay and Seagram's have all announced their foods will be free of genetically modified (GM) products. That is bad news for American farmers and consumers, the environment, about 800 million malnourished people and the 3 billion additional people expected by 2100.

The world's farmers currently produce more than enough food to feed the earth's six billion people, using approximately six million square miles -- an amount of land equal in size to the United States and Europe. But to feed the nine billion people (and their pets) expected to populate this planet, we will have to triple food production by 2050.

  • With the most modern farming practices and high inputs of fertilizers and pesticides, it might be possible to double current crop yields on the same amount of land.
  • And if we went totally "organic," eschewing the use of fertilizers, pesticides and biotechnologies, we would have to double the amount of land cultivated.
  • But with biotechnology, scientists estimate we could triple food production -- without increasing the amount of acreage in production.

Unfortunately, environmental extremists have raised baseless fears about "Frankenfoods." However, in April the National Research Council (NRC) issued a comprehensive report that found "there is no evidence suggesting [genetically modified food] is unsafe to eat." It also reported there is "no strict distinction between the health and environmental risks posed by plants genetically engineered through modern molecular techniques and those modified by conventional breeding practices."

In addition, the NRC concluded that any unintended negative impacts on beneficial species are likely to be smaller than from chemical pesticides, and using bio-engineering to pest-protect crops instead of chemical pesticides could lead to greater biodiversity in some geographical areas.

Source: Sterling Burnett, "Rejecting Biofoods Would Be a Mistake," Dallas Morning News, May 20, 2000.


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