GM Crops Not the Solution for Agricultural Sustainability Needed to Feed the World


Dear friends and colleagues,
Re: GM crops not the solution for agricultural sustainability needed to feed the world
A review article in the Agronomy for Sustainable Development journal concludes that GM crops will not only not feed the world, they are hampering efforts to sustainably feed the world by jeopardizing existing biological and genetic diversity.

The authors argue that agrobiodiversity should be a central element in sustainable agriculture development, and increased access to genetic resources is necessary to increase food production for an expanding world population under the threat of climate change. GM crops on the other hand concentrate ownership of agricultural resources in the hands of corporate interests in developed countries through intellectual property rights instruments.

Particularly worrying is the fact that “A major part of the total public research funds for agriculture in Europe and elsewhere is allotted to projects using technically advanced methods associated with scientific prestige and corporate investments, but sometimes with dubious goals and questionable impacts” instead of towards agrobiodiversity solutions.

“There is a real danger that the scientific response to the global food shortage will be based exclusively on methods that jeopardize existing diversity” and that “food production can be best understood and increased by analyzing yield as the result of genotype, environment, management, and their interactions, and that existing biodiversity can provide the genes needed to satisfy future global demand” the article states.

“When scientists seek to improve crops by adding drought, pest, or disease tolerance through the application of GM technology, they risk turning a blind eye to the study of cultivated plant materials, which already possess many of the desired traits. The documented improvements in yield of soybean, maize and other GM crops to date have not been impressive if they are to be found at all. The overemphasis on genetic engineering is obscuring our knowledge of the considerable available diversity of eminently adapted alternatives, which could provide a greater supply reliability and nutritional enrichment compared to a diet based on few crops only”, the article concludes.

We reproduce the abstract below. The full article is available at:
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 Feeding the world: genetically modified crops versus agricultural biodiversity

Agronomy for Sustainable Development, March 2013

Sven-Erik Jacobsen,
Marten Sørensen,
Søren Marcus Pedersen,
Jacob Weiner

The growing demand for food poses major challenges to humankind. We have to safeguard both biodiversity and arable land for future agricultural food production, and we need to protect genetic diversity to safeguard ecosystem resilience. We must produce more food with less input, while deploying every effort to minimize risk. Agricultural sustainability is no longer optional but mandatory. There is still an on-going debate among researchers and in the media on the best strategy to keep pace with global population growth and increasing food demand. One strategy favors the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, while another strategy focuses on agricultural biodiversity. Here, we discuss two obstacles to sustainable agriculture solutions. The first obstacle is the claim that genetically modified crops are necessary if we are to secure food production within the next decades. This claim has no scientific support, but is rather a reflection of corporate interests. The second obstacle is the resultant shortage of research funds for agrobiodiversity solutions in comparison with funding for research in genetic modification of crops. Favoring biodiversity does not exclude any future biotechnological contributions, but favoring biotechnology threatens future biodiversity resources. An objective review of current knowledge places GM crops far down the list of potential solutions in the coming decades. We conclude that much of the research funding currently available for the development of GM crops would be much better spent in other research areas of plant science, e.g., nutrition, policy research, governance, and solutions close to local market conditions if the goal is to provide sufficient food for the world’s growing population in a sustainable way.

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