Tuesday, 21 August 2007

A New Green Revolution for a Greener 21st Century

This advertorial appeared in the Aug. 26, 2002, special edition of Time magazine titled "The Green Century."

It's no wonder that global plantings of biotech crops increased nearly 20 percent last year.1 Farmers around the world have learned how technology in a seed helps them grow more food and crops while preserving their land.And plant biotechnology will likely become even more important in creating a greener 21st century.

An increasing global population is fueling demand for more and better food. Experts say farmers will need to at least double their production2 over the next 25 years to feed these new mouths at a time when annual yield increases have slowed.3 That puts both agricultural and wilderness areas under intense pressure. Consider:Environmental experts fear that up to half the world's 6 billion acres of tropical forests will be lost to agricultural expansion.4 Biologists warn that as many as 20 percent of all species in those forests could be extinct within 30 years.5 Two out of every three people could live in water-stressed conditions by 2025.6 Biotechnology could help by allowing farmers to grow more food on existing acres, including drought-prone or other marginal lands, which could reduce the need to put remaining wilderness areas under the plow. Researchers, for example, are developing:Corn and rice plants that are more tolerant of aluminum - a common soil toxin.7
Tomatoes and other crops that can thrive in salty soil8 - an agricultural problem in many arid regions where irrigation is used. And biotechnology is helping farmers produce more corn that can be used for bio-based fuels such as ethanol. In the future, biotechnology could help develop more renewable raw materials for energy and other industrial uses, and therefore provide even more environmental benefits.

A new study by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy quantified the impact of biotech crops in the United States. Eight biotech crops planted in 2001 - including soybeans and cotton - boosted total production by 4 billion pounds, reduced spraying by 46 million pounds and generated an additional $1.5 billion in income for farmers.9

"Unless we are ready to accept starvation, or place parks and the Amazon basin under the plow, there really is only one good alternative: Discover ways to increase food production from existing resources," says Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the University of California Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program. "Biotechnology is by default our best and, maybe, only way to increase production to meet future food needs."10

Reducing hunger and sustaining the environment - those are good ideas worth growing.
1 James, Clive, Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2001, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, ISAAA Briefs No. 24 - 2001, <www.isaaa.org/publications/briefs/Brief_24.htm>.

2 State of World Population 2001," Chapter 2, Environment Trends, Moving Towards Food Security subhead, UN Population Fund, Nov. 7, 2001, <www.unfpa.org/swp/2001/english/ch02.html#2d>.

3 Hautea, Randy A., James, Clive. "The Road to Global Sustainable Agriculture: A View and Experience from ISAAA,"

4 "Food in the 21st Century: From Science to Sustainable Agriculture," CGIAR, P. 24, <www.worldbank.org/html/cgiar/publications/shahbook/shahbook.pdf>.

5 "Food in the 21st Century: From Science to Sustainable Agriculture," CGIAR, P. 24, <www.worldbank.org/html/cgiar/publications/shahbook/shahbook.pdf>.

6 Global Environment Outlook, 2000 - United Nations Environment Programme, <www.unep.org/geo2000/>.

7 "Food in the 21st Century: From Science to Sustainable Agriculture," CGIAR, <www.worldbank.org/html/cgiar/publications/shahbook/shahbook.pdf>.

8 O'Connor, Anahad. "Altered Tomato Thrives in Salty Soil," New York Times, Aug. 14, 2001.

9 Gianessi, Leonard P. "Plant Biotechnology: Current and Potential Impact for Improving Pest Management in U.S. Agriculture, An Analysis of 40 Case Studies, <www.ncfap.org/40CaseStudies/NCFAB Exec Sum.pdf>.

10 "Ten Reasons Why Biotechnology Will be Important to the Developing World," Martina McGloughlin, University of California at Davis, AgBioForum, 1999.

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