GM crops the only way to feed the world

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

The world’s 6.5 billion inhabitants can only be fed with the help of genetically modified crops, according to the father of the “green revolution” Norman Borlaug, quoted by political advisor and author Paul Driessen in an April editorial for Institut économique Molinari.

“If we only use organic fertilisers and natural methods on arable land, we can only feed four billion people,” Driessen’s editorial quotes Borlaug as saying. 

Norman Borlaug is known as “the man who fed the world” as he was at the origin of the 1960s “green revolution”, explains Driessen. 

He created new, more robust wheat varieties resistant to certain parasites. He also taught farmers in many developing countries (Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia and the Philippines) modern cultivation methods, convincing governments to lift price controls on cereals and allow the use of chemical fertilisers, Driessen continues.  

Stressing the need to use GM crops, Borlaug also tried to export the “green revolution” to sub-Saharan Africa in 1985. But according to Driessen, GM crops’ progress there could be hindered by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his ‘Alliance for green revolution in Africa’, which aims to fight poverty and malnutrition through traditional means. 

Driessen writes that whereas Annan argues that GM crops are dangerous, there is too little knowledge of them and they could make poor farmers dependant on multinationals (forcing them to buy expensive seeds), Borlaug has reiterated his GM-friendly view. At a UN conference on biotech he said he could not see any alternative to GM crops to feed the world’s population, particularly if the parallel aim is to increase the production of biofuels. 

In his editorial, Paul Driessen outlines a number of benefits of GM crops: higher yields enabling better nutrition, resistance to insects, parasites and several illnesses as well as the need for fewer water and plant protection products.

“Biotechnologies liberate the poorest farmers from the chains of, potentially, hostile nature,” writes Driessen, acknowledging that farmers initially pay more for GM seeds. But as GM crops use less water and pesticides and result in higher yields, the farmers end up enriched and winning, he concludes.

To support his argument, Driessen refers to a number of positive testimonies by South African farmers who have opted for GM crops, adding that a number of farmers in Brazil, India, China and the Philippines echoed such sentiments.

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