Anti-Biotech Activists Threaten Agricultural Gains
December 6, 2000
Texas A&M University professor Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in agriculture in 1970, is warning of a growing anti-biotech movement in countries such as India. Fear-mongers, he says, could lead poor countries to back off from use of inorganic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides -- risking the return of famines that preceded their introduction.
- As of 1965, wheat yields were 4.6 million tons in Pakistan and 12.3 million in India -- and famine was widespread in both countries.
- Then Borlaug persuaded both countries to try highly productive dwarf wheat and practice improved integrated crop management.
- The change has been so successful that this year Pakistan harvested 20 million tons and India brought in 73.5 million tons -- all-time records.
- But now India is considering outlawing inorganic, synthetic fertilizers -- which Borlaug fears would seriously diminish the country's ability to feed its one billion people.
New and improved agricultural technologies have also resulted in enormously higher yields in the U.S.
- In 1960, U.S. production of the 17 most important food, feed and fiber crops was 252 million tons.
- By 1999, it had increased to 700 million tons -- produced on 10 million fewer acres than were cultivated in 1960.
- If the U.S. had tried to produce the harvest of 1999 with the technology of 1960, we would have had to increase cultivated areas by about 460 million acres -- which we don't have.
Source: Norman Borlaug (Texas A&M University), "We Need Biotech to Feed the World," Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2000.
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