Maywa Montenegro in Seed:
The past six months have brought scenes from a hungry apocalypse, as at least 14 countries have been wracked by food-related violence. By mid-April UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon acknowledged that “the steeply rising price of food has developed into a real global crisis.”
It’s the product, economists say, of multiple factors: high oil prices, prolonged drought, biofuel production, and burgeoning meat consumption. In the short term, food aid will help. In the medium term, market-distorting trade tariffs and farm subsidies must end. But the long-term task is monumentally harder: transcending the limits of today’s global food production.
The Green Revolution of the 20th century more than doubled the global supply of corn, rice, and wheat. Unless crop yields increase again, however, feeding the Earth’s 9.2 billion inhabitants in 2050 will require doubling the amount of land now under cultivation. There’s a gathering consensus that a new Green Revolution is needed — one that in addition to producing higher yields, is environmentally responsible and spurs economic growth in the developing world. Biotechnology, most scientists agree, must play a crucial role. But biotech, and genetic modification (GM) in particular, still faces profound public skepticism. As symptoms of an ailing food economy erupt around the world, breaking this impasse is more vital than ever. Doing so requires reimagining the tools of GM — how, where, and by whom they are invented, implemented, and sold.