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Biotechnology has great potential to alleviate hunger by improving crop production in poor countries, but few farmers there can take advantage of it. So says the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its annual report The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-2004.

Most genetically modified (GM) crops are grown in the United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, China and South Africa. And just four crops — soybean, maize, cotton, and canola (oil seed rape) account for 99 per cent of global GM production. Meanwhile, many developing countries' staple crops, including rice, millet, cassava and potatoes, are neglected by biotechnology research, says the report.

Genetic engineering and other biotechnologies could increase yields and improve food quality by addressing problems caused by diseases, pests and environmental factors such as drought, the report says. It also highlights the potential for such advances to reduce hunger, but says that more research and investment must be focused on the needs of developing countries.

Link to full news story on BBC online

Link to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-2004 

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