Professor of international development at Harvard, Calestous Juma has called on Africa to form an “International Institute for Biotechnology” that would unite governments, farmers, researchers and private companies to make genetically modified crops a positive force in Africa. If the world is to meet the rising demand for food, sub-Saharan land must be better utilized. Currently, only 4% is irrigated, compared with 40% of the land in Asia. A recent Nature article suggested that organic farming yields about one-third less food than conventional techniques, due mostly to disease vulnerability and the lack of synthetic fertilizers.
What’s the Big Idea?
By 2050, the world faces a 70% increase in global food demand so worries over genetically modified foods must be balanced against malnutrition and starvation in the world’s poorest countries. While there are real concerns about genetically modified food, no scientific studies have found them unsafe to eat since their widespread use began a decade ago. GM foods are one tool in the toolkit, to be sure. Another is waste reduction: Consumers in the West throw away about a third of the food produced while in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, about a third of cultivated foods rot due to inadequate transportation and storage.