Biotech Benefits and Feeding the World

By: Kiley Stinson, Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association Intern (Follow her on Twitter- @ksgraintrain).

The development of biotechnology in agriculture opens the door of opportunity for producers. When managed properly, and with precise regulatory supervision based on sound science, it works to improve efficiencies and potential profits. However, the production of biotech agricultural products is straining current systems of consumer information, health regulation and trade management. Widespread acceptance of biotechnology depends on developing better methods of informing consumers and effective management by biotechnology providers, producers, suppliers, and merchandisers.

Agricultural biotechnology is needed to feed the world of the future. In the year 1900, the global population was a mere 1.6 billion people. Today, that number has surged to 6 billion people. The United Nations estimates that number will continue to rise, surpassing 8 billion people by the year 2030. According to the United Nations Population Fund, Farmers will need to produce 75 percent more food per acre by the year 2020 just to meet the anticipated demand of the growing population.

You might ask, “How might this technology benefit producers and the environment?” Well, not only does biotechnology allow farmers around the world to help feed a growing population, some biotechnology crops can be engineered to tolerate specific herbicides, which makes weed control simpler and more efficient. It helps increase yields while decreasing the need for inputs such as water and fertilizer. Furthermore, it provides improved pest control methods to protect against disease, which are more environmentally friendly, drastically reducing the need for pesticides. Current research work is being done to produce hardier crops that will thrive in even the harshest environments and that will require less labor, fuel, fertilizer, and water, helping to decrease the pressures on land and wildlife habitats.

What about consumer benefits? Acceptance by consumers depends on a continued effort to better educate and inform consumers about the environmental and health benefits this technology provides. Biotechnology offers great promise for consumers around the world. Biotechnology will bring health benefits to consumers by providing a wider variety of foods which are more abundant, more convenient to use, and more nutritious. Foods that garner a longer shelf life and higher quality ingredients should lead to healthier diets as well as greater consumer appeal.

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One response to this post.

  1. Kiley,

    I enjoyed reading your blog post. Much of what you stated about consumer communications regarding food biotechnology relates to what we found in our most recent 2010 “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” Survey. We found that consumers are much more supportive of food biotechnology if discussed in the context of environmental and sustainability benefits. I would encourage you to take a look at our recent press release and topline data (http://www.foodinsight.org/Press-Release/Detail.aspx?topic=Interest_in_Environment_Sustainability_Prevails_in_Food_Technology_Survey), as well as a blog that I wrote discussing our Survey results (http://www.foodinsight.org/Blog/tabid/60/EntryId/309/-What-s-In-It-For-Me-is-Key-in-Communicating-About-Food-Technology.aspx).

    Kerry Robinson, RD
    Manager, Food Ingredient and Technology Communications
    International Food Information Council

    Reply

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