Focus on Yields 2011 and other good stuff by Brookes & Barfoot – reduced pesticide use…

December 2011

Oops! It appears that I twittered a defunct link!  Thanks for the heads up, @GMOpundit!

Anyway, the brochure “Focus on Yields – Biotech crops: evidence of global outcomes and impacts 1996–2009” (June 2011) by Brookes and Barfoot is available on the PG Economics website @ http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/ but I am including it as an attachment to this blog entry. I am also attaching the Brookes and Barfoot report: “GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2009.” I refer my farmer friends to a nice tidbit out of this latter report:

GM technology has had a significant positive impact on farm income derived from a combination of enhanced productivity and efficiency gains (Table 1). In 2009, the direct global farm income benefit from biotech crops was $10.8 billion. This is equivalent to having added 5.8% to the value of global production of the four main crops of soybeans, maize, canola and cotton. Since 1996, farm incomes have increased by $64.7 billion.”

Apologies to all who received and circulated the twitter message with broken link.  

2011globalimpactstudybrookes_and_barfoot.pdf
Download this file

focusonyields2011.pdf
Download this file

How to Feed a Hungry World #hunger #food #FAO

‘Nature’ special issue: How to Feed a Hungry World
– Editorial, Nature, July 29, 2010 v 466, p531-532

Full issue at http://www.nature.com/news/specials/food/index.html
Producing enough food for the world’s population in 2050 will be easy. But doing it at an acceptable cost to the planet will depend on research into everything from high-tech seeds to low-tech farming practices.
With the world’s population expected to grow from 6.8 billion today to 9.1 billion by 2050, a certain Malthusian alarmism has set in: how will all these extra mouths be fed? The world’s population more than doubled from 3 billion between 1961 and 2007, yet agricultural output kept pace and current projections (see page 546) suggest it will continue to do so. Admittedly, climate change adds a large degree of uncertainty to projections of agricultural output, but that just underlines the importance of monitoring and research to refine those predictions. That aside, in the words of one official at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the task of feeding the world’s population in 2050 in itself seems easily possible.

Easy, that is, if the world brings into play swathes of extra land, spreads still more fertilizers and pesticides, and further depletes already scarce groundwater supplies. But clearing hundreds of millions of hectares of wildlands most of the land that would be brought into use is in Latin America and Africa while increasing today’s brand of resource-intensive, environmentally destructive agriculture is a poor option. Therein lies the real challenge in the coming decades: how to expand agricultural output massively without increasing by much the amount of land used.

What is needed is a second green revolution an approach that Britain’s Royal Society aptly describes as the sustainable intensification of global agriculture. Such a revolution will require a wholesale realignment of priorities in agricultural research. There is an urgent need for new crop varieties that offer higher yields but use less water, fertilizers or other inputs created, for example, through long-neglected research on modifying roots (see page 552) and for crops that are more resistant to drought, heat, submersion and pests. Equally crucial is lower-tech research into basics such as crop rotation, mixed farming of animals and plants on smallholder farms, soil management and curbing waste. (Between one-quarter and one-third of the food produced worldwide is lost or spoiled.)

Developing nations could score substantial gains in productivity by making better use of modern technologies and practices. But that requires money: the FAO estimates that to meet the 2050 challenge, investment throughout the agricultural chain in the developing world must double to US$83 billion a year. Most of that money needs to go towards improving agricultural infrastructure, from production to storage and processing. In Africa, the lack of roads also hampers agricultural productivity, making it expensive and difficult for farmers to get synthetic fertilizers. And research agendas need to be focused on the needs of the poorest and most resource-limited countries, where the majority of the world’s population lives and where population growth over the next decades will be greatest. Above all, reinventing farming requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves not just biologists, agronomists and farmers, but also ecologists, policy-makers and social scientists.

To their credit, the world’s agricultural scientists are embracing such a broad view. In March, for example, they came together at the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development in Montpellier, France, to begin working out how to realign research agendas to help meet the needs of farmers in poorer nations. But these plans will not bear fruit unless they get considerably more support from policy-makers and funders.

The growth in public agricultural-research spending peaked in the 1970s and has been withering ever since. Today it is largely flat in rich nations and is actually decreasing in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where food needs are among the greatest. The big exceptions are China, where spending has been exponential over the past decade, and, to a lesser extent, India and Brazil. These three countries seem set to become the key suppliers of relevant science and technology to poorer countries. But rich countries have a responsibility too, and calls by scientists for large increases in public spending on agricultural research that is more directly relevant to the developing world are more than justified.

The private sector also has an important part to play. In the past, agribiotechnology companies have focused mostly on the lucrative agriculture markets in rich countries, where private-sector research accounts for more than half of all agricultural research. Recently, however, they have begun to engage in publicprivate partnerships to generate crops that meet the needs of poorer countries. This move mirrors the emergence more than a decade ago of public partnerships with drug companies to tackle a similar market failure: the development of drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases. As such, it is welcome, and should be greatly expanded (see page 548).

Genetically modified (GM) crops are an important part of the sustainable agriculture toolkit, alongside traditional breeding techniques. But they are not a panacea for world hunger, despite many assertions to the contrary by their proponents. In practice, the first generation of GM crops has been largely irrelevant to poor countries. Overstating these benefits can only increase public distrust of GM organisms, as it plays to concerns about the perceived privatization and monopolization of agriculture, and a focus on profits.

Nor are science and technology by themselves a panacea for world hunger. Poverty, not lack of food production, is the root cause. The world currently has more than enough food, but some 1 billion people still go hungry because they cannot afford to pay for it. The 2008 food crisis, which pushed around 100 million people into hunger, was not so much a result of a food shortage as of a market volatility with causes going far beyond supply and demand that sent prices through the roof and sparked riots in several countries. Economics can hit food supply in other ways. The countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development pay subsidies to their farmers that total some US$1 billion a day. This makes it very difficult for farmers in developing nations to gain a foothold in world markets.

Nonetheless, research can have a decisive impact by enabling sustainable and productive agriculture a proven recipe (as is treating neglected diseases) for creating a virtuous circle that lifts communities out of poverty.

Listen to podcast at http://www.nature.com/nature/podcast/index-2010-07-29.html

Road Map for Delivering GM Crops to the Third World?

A Search for Regulators and a Road Map to Deliver GM Crops to Third World Farmers
March 31, 2010

The New York Times
by Gayathri Vaidyanathan of ClimateWire

“In the transgenic crop fight, the foot soldiers on either side have been dug in for years. But despite the doubts about the necessity of GM, farmers have been voting with their seeds.”

http://www.truthabouttrade.org/news/latest-news/15812-a-search-for-regulators…

Key points in article:

Now and what is to come:

* transgenic crop acreage is increasing with developing nations and small farming ops being the newest adopters (up 7% over the last year according to the ISAAA)
* European Commission predicts that by 2015 there will be 120 commercial crops grown worldwide (currently there are 30)
* ~ 90% of 14 million farmers worldwide that use GM are ‘resource
poor’ farmers

Problem:

* As many as 100 developing countries lack tech and management capacity to review tests and monitor compliance of GMs

“Biosafety regulations of countries are usually modeled after the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international agreement that promotes a “precautionary approach.” It says that GM crops can be adopted if they are of minimal risk to the environment and human health. It lays out a clear set of guidelines to test for that risk. But guidelines alone don’t suffice.”

Truth_about_trade_tech

GM Crops: Top Ten Facts and Figures

To mark my first week on the job here at the University of Saskatchewan, a ‘top ten’ list on GM:

*Genetically Modified Crops: Top Ten Facts and Figures*
Thursday, October 8, 2009

*Formation Farming
*

Workers harvest soybeans in Mato Grosso state in western Brazil. Soybean is the top GM crop, taking up over half of all GM farmland01. The first commercial GM food was the FlavrSavr tomato developed in the early 1990s in California. It was genetically altered so that it took longer to decompose after being picked.

*01.* The first commercial GM food was the FlavrSavr tomato developed in the early 1990s in California. It was genetically altered so that it took longer to decompose after being picked.

*02.* GM crops have been grown commercially since 1996. Since then the GM market has grown 74-fold and spread to 25 countries. The global value of the GM crop market was 7.5 billion dollars in 2008.

*03.* There were 125 million hectares of GM crops worldwide in 2008, about 6 to 7 percent of the total cultivated land area. That is an increase of nearly 10 percent on the 114 million hectares in 2007.

*04.* The top three GM crops in 2008 were soybeans (53 percent of total GM area), maize (30 percent), and cotton (15 percent). Others include rapeseed (canola), alfalfa, and papaya.

*05.* Ninety percent of GM crops, and almost all GM food crops, are grown in four countries—the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Canada. The U.S. produces almost half of all GM crops.

*06. *There are 13.3 million farmers cultivating GM crops. The vast majority are smallholders in China (7.1 million) and India (5 million) who are growing GM cotton.

*07.* Almost all commercial GM crops today are genetically altered for one or both of two main traits: herbicide tolerance (63 percent) and insect resistance (15 percent), while 22 percent have both traits. Different genetic traits are combined to create “stacked” GM crops.

*08.* In the United States 12.2 million hectares of GM crops (nearly 10 percent of the global total) were used for biofuels in 2008.

*09.* According to industry researc, in 2007 GM crops saved 15.6 million tons of CO2 through rejduced herbicide and pesticide use and reduced tillage, the equivalent of removing 6.3 million cars from the road.

*10.* Future GM crops likely to be commercialized by 2015 include rice, eggplant, potatoes, and wheat. Drought resistant and nutritionally enhanced crops are also expected in the near future.

Sources: International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA); International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Prospective Technological Studies; International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development; United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization10. Future GM crops likely to be commercialized by 2015 include rice, eggplant, potatoes, and wheat. Drought resistant and nutritionally enhanced crops are also expected in the near future.

Source: Allianz Available online at: http://greenbio.checkbiotech.org/news/gm_crops_top_ten_facts_and_figures