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GMO Funding And Use Must Expand To Feed Growing Population In Increasing Climate Change, Says ITIF

Apr 20, 2013 01:14 PM EDT

GMOs or bust: that's the message The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) sent out to the world in its recent report "Feeding the Planet in a Warming World."

"There is no agricultural policy change that could be adopted with more positive impacts and fewer downsides than drastically reducing regulations applied to crops improved through biotechnology," the report states, arguing that the field of study and production has undergone "more extensive scrutiny than any other agricultural product in human history." 

Without furthering the technology and production of GMOs, the report argues, millions will starve as a result of increasing population and climate flux.

Historically, the global population grew from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.2 billion in 2011 and is projected by some, including the UN, to possibly reach as much as 9.3 billion in 2050. In response, the report says, the world's food supply has tripled in the last 50 years alone from 877 million tons of cereal crop annually to 2.4 billion tons globally today.

Compounding this increase in food demand is a projected rise in global wealth put forth by HSBC, which estimates a tripling in GDP in real terms by 2050. As this happens, the report argues, the demand for food will further increase by as much as 100 percent for cereal and 110 percent for protein. The UN, the authors report, has itself estimated that global demand for food could increase by as much as 70 percent within the same time period.

Finally, add a harsher and less predictable climate and you have, the report says, the perfect storm in terms of a major food shortage.

And ultimately, the study argues, there are only two practical forms of increasing food supply: dedicating more land to its production or increasing yields on existing lands. The first, the report explains, has limited potential for the simple reason that there is not enough land actually available for twice the amount of cultivation of today's rates. This leaves only the latter.

However, despite major advancements in the biotech industry, the report warns that if humankind hopes to double its food production rates within the next 30 to 40 years, technology needs to get even better. For this reason, the group argues that key to ensuring the availability of food for even just the next generation, more funding must be allotted to solving the problem. In all, the group asks that Congress triple the budget for agricultural research and development from $5 billion to $15 billion.

Doing so, the report says, "would reverse a decades-long decline in public investments to support breakthroughs in genomics, biotechnology, and agronomics that the private sector will not deliver quickly enough on its own - if at all."

In the long run, however, this is not merely a problem for the people of the United States, but for the world. Which is why the report further calls for the increased establishment and coordination between of "Centers of Innovation Excellence." Such entities include government-sponsored groups, colleges and universities, the private sector and international consortia such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research -- all of which, the group stressed, need strengthening.

However, before any of this is possible, the report states that "misunderstandings must be challenged, and scientific evidence must be restored to its primacy as the basis for making regulatory decisions about food safety."

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