Displaying 1-7 of 7 key documents
Source: Royal Society | October 2009
Food security is a major challenge in global health. Agriculture will need a significant boost if we are to feed the expected global population of nine billion people in 2050. This detailed report outlines the case for 'sustainable intensification'.
Climate change is already putting pressure on existing agricultural systems and will likely continue to alter rainfall patterns, temperatures and soil quality. But climate change isn't the only culprit — agricultural output has also fallen through growing pesticide resistance and low crop diversity.
The report argues that crop management must take these biological factors into account. But to be sustainable it must also support poor farmers and rural populations. This will require technological approaches underpinned by robust science, says the report.
The authors provide a detailed overview of how climate change will affect food production and the latest genetic techniques available to boost output. No single approach is going to work, and splitting agriculture into different camps — genetically modified or not, for example — will have no traction. The key is to consider the problem holistically and see how different approaches could be combined for the best results.
The report calls for agricultural sciences to be placed at the forefront of innovation, and supports its position in university courses, arguing that if agriculture is to see a revolution, it will need talented scientists.
Source: GeneWatch UK | July 2009
This report from GeneWatch UK describes the use of genetically modified (GM) crops as agrofuels and makes policy recommendations on their use.
Civil society groups have raised concerns over the sustainability of using food supplies to produce biofuel. Industry and government have responded by investing in genetically modified 'second generation' biofuels to try and increase energy output from a broader range of plant sources.
The author says that assessments of GM biofuels must consider their impact on biodiversity, food supply and land use, how much they can realistically reduce carbon emissions and their technical feasibility.
GeneWatch UK recommends an independent appraisal for second-generation GM agrofuels. It suggests that gaps in research and regulation must be addressed, particularly those regarding environmental concerns such as factory waste streams containing GM organisms.
Source: FAO | 2008
This report combines a background paper and summary report from a moderated email conference held by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in March 2007.
The background paper outlines the current and future challenges for water availability. The authors discuss options for dealing with water scarcity, focusing on agricultural water use, and ask how biotechnologies — from microorganisms for pest control to genetically modified crops — can help.
The summary report highlights the consensus among conference participants that biotechnology has a valuable role to play in addressing water scarcity in developing countries.
It presents examples of biotechnologies being used in the developing world, including marker-assisted selection, genetic modification, biofertilisers and wastewater recycling. But the report calls for increased collaboration and interdisciplinary research, as well as more involvement of stakeholders in designing solutions, to help biotechnologies move from the lab to farmers' fields.
Source: Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture | May 2005
This article summarises the findings of a study undertaken by US-based academics at the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture and the State University of New Jersey. The authors analysed data on the impact of the adoption of genetically modified Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize on corn production in seven southern African countries: Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The report discusses the importance of corn in southern African farming and diets and describes the process of adoption of Bt corn, which was slow at first.
The study found that both large and small-scale farmers who planted Bt cotton benefited in terms of increased yields and reduced pesticide applications, although it was impossible to quantify the latter advantage in relation to smallholders. Small farmers said that they liked the quality of the Bt corn varieties.
The report goes on to estimate the potential impact of improved corn yield on food security in the region. The authors conclude by discussing possible measures that might encourage small farmers to adopt the new varieties.
Source: Australian Board of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) | October 2003
The authors of this report, from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), assess the likely socio-economic and environmental issues of adopting biotechnology. They conclude that some of the poorest regions of the world stand to gain the most by the technology, through higher yields, better nutrition and helping to develop crops that are better adapted to local conditions.
The report stresses the importance and value of cost-benefit analyses, and the need to consider technologies on a case-by-case basis. As well as outlining specific developments in agricultural biotechnology, the authors argue the cases for and against its use, and assess the potential economic impacts. Issues currently facing developing countries with regard to GM crops include the need for a sound regulatory system, trade impacts and intellectual property rights.
This report gives a general overview relating to GM crops in developing countries, with more emphasis on the socio-economic agenda than many other reports of this nature. It will be of specific interest to those focussing on the financial and trade impacts of GM crops for developing countries.
Source: GM Science Review Panel (UK) | January 2004
The GM Science Review formed one element of the UK government’s “national dialogue” on GM issues, which took place in 2003. The Science Review aimed to provide a summary of the (then) current scientific knowledge about GM crops, and fed directly into the UK government’s decision-making process on the commercialisation of GM crops. This, supplementary Second Report of the GM Science Review Panel, is a comprehensive literature review. It was co-authored by a panel of 22 selected specialists, ranging from plant breeders to environmental scientists.
The aim of the review was to ensure that policy-makers were informed about the best scientific evidence available. The panel was given a specific brief to highlight the remaining areas of uncertainty in scientific understanding of GM crops. The panel concludes that there is no scientific case for an outright ban on the commercial cultivation of GM crops in the UK, but neither do they find evidence to support a blanket approval. Instead, the panel recommends that new crops should be analysed on a case-by-case basis prior to commercial approval.
This report is a valuable summary of the state of scientific knowledge relating to the cultivation of GM crops, and is especially of interest to anyone who needs to refer to the fundamental research.
Source: Nuffield Council on Bioethics | May 1999
This authoritative report considers the ethical and social issues which are raised by the development and application of GM plant technology in world agriculture and food security. The authors discuss the scientific background and techniques used in genetic modification, the potential of GM crops, commercial and legal considerations, implications for the developing world, consumer concerns, environmental concerns and regulation and policy issues. Chapter 4 considers in detail the potential impact of GM crops on developing countries, concluding that there is a moral imperative for making GM crops readily and economically available to developing countries that want them. Valuable reading for anyone interested in a rational debate on the potential impact of GM crops.