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Senator Suggests Biotech to Help Combat Hunger, Climate Change

January 30, 2009
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) made a science-based plea this week for the international community to embrace agricultural biotechnology as one weapon in the warn against world hunger and climate change. 

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Senator Lugar is ranking member, held a hearing on January 28th where strategies for addressing global climate change were discussed.  The hearing’s key witness was Former Vice President and climate change expert Al Gore.  Gore’s testimony focused on our “dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.”

But in his opening statement, Lugar said “the United States should recognize that steps to address climate change involve economic opportunities, not just constraints.”  Opportunities such as these exist in the dynamic science of agricultural biotechnology.

Lugar said:  “Genetically modified (GM) crops have the potential to improve agriculture production in the poorest regions of the world and help poor farmers contend with increased drought, new pests, and other consequences of a changing climate. Yet many developing countries, especially in Africa, worry that if they adopt GM crops, they will not be able to export to markets in Europe. They also are deeply influenced by the direct advocacy of European government agencies and NGOs that are hostile to biotechnology.  The ironic result has been that African nations have developed stifling, European-inspired regulations on GM technology, even as they continue to struggle to ensure adequate food supplies and they rightly worry about the coming impact of climate change on their agricultural productivity.

“Opposition to safe GM technology contributes to hunger in Africa in the short run and virtually ensures that these poor countries will lack the tools in the long run to adapt their agriculture to changing climatic conditions that could create chaos. As a wealthy continent with a relatively secure food supply, Europe has the luxury to reject the benefits of GM technology without fear that its domestic populations will suffer intensifying hunger. But most African countries have no such luxury…We must not allow an aversion to modern agricultural technology to doom a part of the world’s population to chronic hunger and poverty.”