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BIO Celebrates World Food Day!

October 16, 2013

How Ag Biotech Can Help End World Hunger

Today, organizations, academics and many others across the United States and Canada are celebrating World Food Day by devising efforts to end global hunger.  Established in 1979 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Day brings together organizations from around the world to mobilize advocacy campaigns and events to strengthen the political will to end world hunger.

The theme for World Food Day 2013 is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”. This means ensuring that all individuals are guaranteed access to nutritious foods and that communities and countries across the world have the ability to maintain sustainable food systems.

In the efforts to join advocacy around World Food Day, BIO is reminding those how agricultural biotechnology is a key element in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, especially in developing nations:

  1. Such top scientific organizations as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association have concluded that foods with biotech-derived ingredients pose no more risk to people than any other food.

  2. Next, biotechnology products in the United States are regulated more strictly than any other agricultural or food product in history and cannot be approved until they have been proven to be safe for human consumption and safe for the environment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  3. Future crops designed to tolerate environmental stresses, such as salty or toxic soils, drought, and freezing temperatures, will make agriculture more efficient and sustainable.

  4.  Lastly, biotechnology has already helped increase food and feed production. For example, biotechnology traits have added 74 million tonnes and 79.7 million tonnes respectively to global production of soybeans and corn since its introduction in 1996.  In the United States alone, corn yield has increased 36 percent, soybean yield has increased 12 percent, and cotton yield has increased about 31 percent since 1995, in part due to biotechnology.

Published in the DesMoinesRegister, Julie Borlaug, wrote a wonderful op-ed titled, Another View: Like it or not, biotech is a necessary ag tool, which highlights the 2013 World Food Prize, her grandfather, Dr. Norman Borlaug - founder of the Green Revolution, and why ag biotech is a key tool to ending world hunger,
“In reality, however, the prize has been awarded not to a company, but to three scientists, who besides Fraley include Marc Van Montagu, founder and chairman of the Institute for Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton, founder and distinguished fellow of Syngenta Biotechnology.

“I might add that my grandfather, a strong biotechnology proponent, told me many times that he hoped all three would one day receive the award.

“Whatever the source of their opposition to biotechnology, we need to ask critics if they really want to bar spectacular, life-changing and lifesaving innovations because of it.

“Likewise, I wonder how many Americans and Europeans who rail against biotechnology have actually been to sub-Saharan Africa and met with farmers struggling with increasingly arid conditions there. I wonder how many of them have seen these women — the people in the fields are usually women — spending hour after precious hour pulling weeds or losing their crops to insects or viruses, bacteria, or fungi.

“The world population today is about 7.2 billion. By 2050, it’s expected to hit 9.6 billion. Almost all of that growth will take place in undeveloped countries, in the kinds of places where small-holder farmers are already struggling to raise crops in conditions that are only becoming more challenging through climate change.

“This is not to say that biotechnology will single-handedly erase world hunger, as critics think advocates believe. Advocates understand that multifaceted, integrated solutions are needed. The farmer in underdeveloped regions not only needs drought-resistant seeds: She also needs facilities for post-harvest storage, a cellphone to follow market fluctuations, clean water to nourish her crops and keep her family healthy, and roads to get her grain to market.

In short, she needs a lot of tools. But biotechnology is one.”

BIO wanted to conclude by reminding readers and policy-makers that biotechnology-driven innovation in agriculture is central to a number of the Administration’s initiatives, including the National Bioeconomy Blueprint.         

Therefore, any activity preventing Ag biotech from being a part of the modern day agriculture tool belt used to fix global hunger should concern the current Administration.   

To join the members of the World Food Day network and take action this October 16, visit their list of events.  To view the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s (BIO) President and CEO Jim Greenwood’s comments on the National Bioeconomy Blueprint, visit our press release.