The Promise Of Biotechnology

February 28, 2000

Genetic engineering and biotechnology carry the promise of creating hardier, disease-resistant and pest-resistant crops, scientists assert. Those food supplies will be needed to feed the Earth's growing populations during the 21st century. Unfortunately, environmentalists are in the vanguard of opposition.

Biotechnology advocates are urging them to wake up and consider the facts:

  • The global population, now at six billion, is expected to peak at nine billion.
  • Feeding those nine billion diets similar to those enjoyed by people in industrialized countries will require that approximately three times more food be produced by 2050.
  • If all the world's farmers adopted the best modern farming practices, with high inputs of fertilizers and pesticides, it might be possible to double current crop yields on the same amount of land now under cultivation, about six million square miles -- or an area equal to the U.S. and Europe.
  • Alternatively, if we went totally organic -- eschewing the use of fertilizers, pesticides and biotechnologies -- we would have to double the amount of land under active cultivation.

Environmentalists wouldn't be happy with the need to convert wild lands to crop lands, and they definitely oppose use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Biotechnology has demonstrated its promise. For example, the Rockefeller Foundation's golden rice project developed genetically altered rice containing beta-carotene -- which readily converts to Vitamin A -- and new genes to overcome vitamin deficiency. Golden rice is already preventing thousands of cases of childhood blindness and reducing the amount of anemia suffered by more than two billion women in rice-dependent countries.

Dennis Avery, of the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, estimates that with bioengineered agricultural products we could increase food production the threefold needed -- without increasing the amount of acreage under cultivation.

Source: Pete du Pont (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Biotech Horn of Plenty," Washington Times, February 26, 2000.

 

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