GM will be widespread by 2050 – FAO

GENETICALLY modified crops will be used ‘to a much greater extent’ over the coming years after the UN issued a rallying cry to farmers to boost production by increasing crop yields without cultivating more land.   

A discussion paper put forward by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last week said a boost in production was essential to feed a global population set to increase by 2.3 billion over the next 40 years. 

The paper lays down a challenge to world leaders to ‘push agricultural frontiers outwards’ to find ways to enable farmers to reap more from one hectare rather than ploughing up more land.

The wider adoption of GM crops was seen as one area where farmers may increase production without bring more land into production.

The paper says ‘experts predict that by 2050 genetically modified technologies will be cheaper, far more widely available, and used to a much greater extent to improve potential yields and yield stability of staple food crops’.

The FAO adds GM herbicide resistant plants have already been successful in reducing pesticide applications and lifting crop yields but recognises there is still stiff competition to the technology.

The paper ‘The Technology Challenge’ comes in response to latest FAO projection that global agricultural production must grow by 70 per cent by 2050 in order to feed a population of 9.1 billion.

The paper says there needs to be a sharp increase in public investment in research and development and widespread adoption of new technologies, farming techniques and crop varieties to meet the global food security challenge. 

It says 90 per cent of the required production need to come from these agricultural advances, and only 10 per cent by expanding arable land.

The paper will form part of a high-level expert forum on ‘How to feed the world in 2050’ due to take place at the FAO’s Rome headquarters on October 12-13, ahead of the ‘World Summit on Food Security’ due to take place on November 16-18.

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