With millions more to feed in the decades to come, gearing agriculture up to cope is top priority for poorer nations. Scientists in the West are running to keep up – but how are they faring?
In this article, Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy reveals both good news and bad. On the positive side, the World Bank and other big donor agencies have been galvanised into action: the Global Conservation Trust, for instance, has gathered US$100 million to support conservation of valuable genetic resources. Less happily, the ongoing furore over GM crops and an intellectual property regime bristling with patents are impeding much progress in combating world hunger.A balancing of costs and benefits is called for. GM technology may be controversial, but it remains perhaps the best choice for farmers forced onto marginal lands – and as the West debates, the poor starve.