miércoles, mayo 07, 2008

ENERGY CRISIS: Food shortages and incredible arguments

I find this talk of genetically modified food being necessary to feed the world's population incredible ('As the world begins to starve it's time to take GM seriously', Comment, last week). Yes, it would get us out of a scrape in the short term, but we have to realise that we cannot carry on expanding the population and consuming resources without consequences. If the population continues to grow, we will reach a situation where even GM cannot feed everyone, never mind competing for space, water, a clean environment and the chance for other species to exist. Overpopulation is the biggest single cause of our environmental woes and we cannot make significant improvements without addressing this.
Ryan Taylor, London SW9

Crop yields need to increase by 1.6 per cent per year (compounded) to avoid mass starvation. From the mid-Sixties to the mid-Nineties, soybean, canola, maize, wheat and rice did just that, but in the last 10 to 15 years, wheat and rice have fallen badly below this threshold.

The difference? Wheat and rice are not yet 'biotech' crops whereas breeding tools have been successfully applied to the others. Robin McKie's timely article highlights that this important new breeding tool is not only safe and effective but also desperately needed.

We simply cannot afford to throw GM out if we are to double crop production in the next 40 years in a sustainable fashion. Ironically, pressure from some NGOs has engendered overly restrictive regulations that price out GM breakthroughs from small companies and publicly funded research institutes. Such breakthroughs could make major contributions to enhancing yield.
Professor Chris Lamb, John Innes Centre, Norwich

Your article trots out the old line that GM crops can give the world higher-yielding crops using fewer pesticides. On what evidence? A report last week from the United Nations World Food Programme said GM was not a quick fix to feed the world's poor. The authors saw little role for it in feeding the poor.
Roger Mainwood, Wivenhoe, Essex

Robin McKie addresses the criticism of the biotechnology industry, based on assumptions that it is driven by 'international conglomerates', which is not always the case.

For Hawaiian farmers whose papaya crop was ravaged by the ringspot virus in the Nineties, GM technology was a saving grace. Not through big business, but scientists at Cornell University who used GM technology to create a crop resistant to ringspot virus that saved the Hawaiian papaya industry from collapse. One would hope that if a similar event were to occur on our shores, environmental campaigners would support British farmers' access to such beneficial technology.
Julian Little , chair, Agricultural Biotechnology Council, London WC1

Robin McKie presents a stimulating but flawed solution to feeding a rising population at a time of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fourth assessment report: 'Globally, the potential for food production is projected to increase with increases in local average temperature over a range of 1 to 3 degrees C, but above this it is projected to decrease', so it is possible that global food production may actually increase, making the case for GM hardly compelling.

We should beware the siren calls from GM conglomerates.
Mike Frost, Bristol

Julius Nyerere once said: 'When people go hungry, it is not food that is short, but justice.' Until that is corrected, no amount of new technologies will be enough.
Frank Jackson, Harlow, Essex

The Observer

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