New Technologies Needed to Feed a Growing Population

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference yesterday the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor John Beddington, made clear the Government’s view that using the latest advances in science, such as GM and nanotechnology, is vital to make sure that the world can produce enough to feed a growing population by 2030. The world will need to produce 50% more food in the next twenty years. Prof. Beddington said that more crops will need to be produced on less land, and that GM offers a way to achieve this.

Speaking to farmers at the conference Prof. Beddington said “we need a greener revolution, improving production and efficiency through the food chain within environmental and other constraints”. He stated that action to improve crop yields is necessary now, due to time lags in developing and implementing new technologies, and that GM is critical in meeting economic, environmental and social goals.

Prof. Beddington’s speech attracted criticism from some, including in the Guardian’s editorial yesterday. The Guardian calls for Ministers to themselves be more explicit about the Government’s belief that GM is vital to ensure food security, communicating this directly to the public rather than relying on the Government CSA to make such speeches. The newspaper also questioned whether the evidence base really does support GM technology as ‘vital’ to food security, as outlined by Prof. Beddington, alluding to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAAST), led by Professor Bob Watson, Defra’s Chief Scientist. The report found that GM technology was unlikely to have more than a limited role in tackling hunger and that global hunger is as much to do with power and control over food supply as with growing enough to eat.

See more: Daily Telegraph, 7 January 2010