What would ‘Malthusian years’ bring?

July 17, 2009

Alberta farmer

global_post_logoTom Abate covers the technology sector for GlobalPost, where this article first appeared. Any views expressed are his own.

It seems like a science fiction novel: Near-starvation of much of the world’s population results in the development of patented seeds and widespread livestock cloning.

But that scenario is not pure speculation. Rather it is a possible future envisioned by analysts for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in a new report titled “The Bioeconomy of 2030.”

The report, which extrapolates current trends into the year 2030, deals with every aspect of biotechnology from medicines to plant-based chemicals, and projects their impacts on the world economy. It raises the fictional starvation scenario to prod the public and policymakers into considering biotech agriculture in a new light.

“Two consecutive years of extreme drought and high temperatures in the major grain growing regions of the world between 2016 and 2017 … caused an explosion in food prices,” says the report published last month. “The ‘Malthusian years’, as they were quickly called by journalists, fueled further investment in agricultural biotechnology.”

Thomas Malthus, a British economist and demographer, famously predicted that population growth would outpace food production, resulting in famine. But over the past two centuries, a series of technological advances — the Industrial Revolution, for example — have greatly expanded the world’s ability to produce food and his theory has been largely discredited.

The report’s sections on agriculture stand out because they evoke provocative concepts to revive the policy debate over what opponents have sometimes call “Frankenfoods.”

There has been public opposition to the genetic modification of foods, particularly in Europe, since herbicide-resistant soybeans were introduced in the mid-1990s. Consumers have questioned the health and environmental risks of the products.

The genetically modified crops currently on the market have been designed to resist insect damage and viral infections and to tolerate certain herbicides, according to the World Health Organization. They are widely grown in North America, South America and China, but only a handful have been approved in the European Union.

The report says that overcoming this unease will require some policy response — possibly driven by an unwanted disaster.

“The goal is to get people thinking about the way the world is changing (population, consumption patterns, climate change, etc.) and encourage them to take a hard look at how society is going to cope,” OECD analyst and report co-author David Sawaya said in an e-mail exchange from Brussels.

In the sections focusing on agricultural issues, the report anticipates that growing middle classes in China and India will increase demand for meats and grains. It predicts a global trade pattern in which manufactured goods flow from the East to the West, while edibles flow back from bread-basket regions such as North and South America.

The report envisions that population growth, coupled with trends like water scarcity, will increase the pressure to obtain greater yields from arable lands. The OECD planners also think that an increasing demand for biofuels and biochemicals will lead to the development of non-edible plants designed to be grown on arid or other marginal lands.

All of these trends, they say, will increase the need for genetic modifications to design drought-tolerant crops, optimize non-edible plants for fuel and chemical production, and improve livestock through advanced breeding and cloning techniques. “The use of biotechnology in primary production is therefore likely to be pervasive by 2030 for the production of plant and animal food sources and for plant sources of feed and fiber,” the report suggests.

Biotech-skeptic Michael Sligh, director of the sustainable agriculture program for the U.S.-based Rural Advancement Foundation, said such a technology-centered view of the future ignores the social, economic and environmental issues that should be considered when planning how to feed the world.

“There’s always been a great deal of rhetoric and promise around agricultural biotechnology but issues of hunger are far more complex than any technological fix,” Sligh said. “Do farmers have access to fair credit, good roads, open markets? All of these are factors that have to be taken into account.”

Among other objections, Sligh said biotech agriculture will increase the number of patented seeds and other inputs that farmers will have to purchase year after year, making them more dependent on global trade and credit flows and decreasing self-reliance.

“When you shift from a very long tradition of 12,000 years of farmers saving seeds to a technology that is patented that is a fundamentally different paradigm,” Sligh said.

Biotech advocate C.S. Prakash, a plant geneticist at the University of Tuskagee in Alabama, thinks the OECD report correctly predicts that global warming will increase the need for genetic modifications.

“The whole geography of farming is going to change,” he said. “You will have more water in some places and less elsewhere, and we will need to redesign crops quickly to meet these new stress factors.”

Prakash said he hopes the report’s fictional scenario spurs debate, especially in Europe, where opposition to genetically modified foods is strongest.

“Unless Europe changes in a big way I don’t think the rest of the world will follow,” he said.

In addition to the public opposition that could impede biotech agriculture, the authors of the OECD report noted another issue that could diminish its usefulness in avoiding the Malthusian possibilities.

In a follow-up email to GlobalPost, they noted that mass-market crops like corn, soy, cotton and canola have been the focus of biotech development because they are most profitable. There has been far less development of the niche crops and local adaptations that are sorely needed.

“This will often be in areas without huge (in a monetary sense) markets,” the OECD authors wrote, suggesting that research subsidies and public support would have to be part of the scenario for “fulfilling the promise of biotechnology.”

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“Transcendant Man” — both human and machine

(Pictured above: Alberta farmer Dwayne Marshman measures the height of his wheat crop, which should be at his waist, on his farm in the Canadian prairies near Rockyford, Alberta June 30, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol)


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I think the whole idea of eating is for nutrition. It is possible to create genetically modified foods that will grow in all sorts of terrible soil conditions, but then I would not benefit from the nutrition. I’m sure we can create a type of cocoa that can grow on iron-depleted soil, but then we would not gain much digestible iron from the cocoa. Fruits, vegetables and livestock convert the substances from the soil into a form that we can more easily digest. Genetic modification might just cause us to eat more to compensate for the lack of nutrition.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

One of the biggest reasons why Malthus’ predictions didn’t quickly become true is birth control and rejection of primitive beliefs. Last I knew, world population is expected to stop growing in 2050, which is the greatest hope we have for a good life for all. (I suppose that if they keep thinking of ways to make it better, the “growth” beloved of investors may continue.)

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Unless I’m mistaken, the biggest cause of starvation in the world today is political instability. Refugees driven off their land by marauding soldiers. Tons of grain rotting in cargo ships because the government won’t distribute it. Tinkering with the DNA of a soybean isn’t going to solve these problems.

Wealthy, educated people don’t want to eat “Frankenfoods.” Everyone of my acquaintance wants to eat organic, cage-free, locally-grown products, regardless of the comparative cost.

Posted by Lisa | Report as abusive

Just another case of balancing demand with supply. It can be done on supply side, and then probably Frankenfood is the way to go. Or it can be done on demand side.
As cynical as it sounds, strict birth control should be implemented. The example of China proved it doable. And it should be first and foremost done in 3rd world.
The people in civilized nations have already done it without any enforcement, just out of economic concerns. It costs more and more in both money and efforts to raise and educate a child. Mostly for that reason, more and more families consciously limit themselves to just one child, and families with more than 2 kids became a rarity.
In 3rd world people still believe that more children is better insurance for old age. Before modern medicine, particularly obstetrics and immunization, were introduced in those parts of the world, less than half of all children born lived into adulthood. Now most of them survive. Parents just have no resources to properly raise and educate, often even feed that many children. If birth control is introduced, there would be much less children per parent, so hopefully parents would value them more and spend more resources on their upbringing.
But even without birth control, ethnic, religious and social conflicts in 3rd world have a good chance to do their part in bringing demand in line with supply. AK-47 is much more efficient population control tool than condoms and all other contraceptives combined. Add to that spread of diseases, AIDS just one albeit the most visible of them, and ever growing shortages of drinkable water, and there’s a chance that birth control measures will not be necessary.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

The year is 2050.

The food shortage has come. Massive swelling populations in the third world, combined with falling food production, have caused food prices to increase greatly.

This has been worsened by the fuel crisis. While oil production has maintained in the face of growing demand, the oil is now harder to procure and process. The first world easily win the bidding wars for global oil, and the developed nations fall into economic chaos.

While green energy has become a booming industry, it has become apparent that it can not meet economic demands for power. Nuclear energy is becoming more attractive as a solution, the longer the power crisis runs.

In Africa alone, the death toll is steadily rising. Their international aid has been cut short by nations who now seek to deal with their own struggling economies.

Activists continue to demand aid for those nations who are failing under the current crisis. Level heads dissent with a more matter-of-fact attitude. We always knew this would happen eventually, they say, so let it happen.

Scientists have found a possible answer in GM crops, bred for both yield and biofuel. But the potential risks of such crops to humans and the environment is well known.

The world leaders reason that these crops should be provided to the third world, leaving real food for the developed nations. Such a trade will be for their unused resources, as it is expected that the developed world should be paid for their efforts.

In the backround, climatologists continue to ponder the global warming which intensified this crisis. It is admitted that between early 2010-2030, the world revolutionised green and sustainable energy at a rate almost thought to be impossible. Yet the crisis still occurred.

Eventually, the scientists reach a consensus. The 40% reduction in global emissions twenty years ago merely slowed down the effects of global warming. And did nothing to actually stop the effects already occurring on the planet.

Perhaps, the scientists reason, those decades should not have been spent fighting global warming, and rather learning to live in a post-global warming world….

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

All major ocean fisheries are in collapse. Not all due to over fishing.

Soil erosion and drought are advancing everywhere on the planet. The mass suicide of 1500 Indian farmers this year was in response to failed crops due to no rain.

Half of all glacial ice that has been here for the past million years has melted into the seas in the last 40 years. Much of it providing potable water to Eurasia.

No one is talking about bee colony decline syndrome or the importance of honey bees to agriculture.

Industrial mining continues to destroy viable ecosystems necessary for the support of farmland.

Either I am wrong or overpopulation and industrialization have lead to excessive exploitation of resources. This in turn has caused the biosphere to become unbalanced and threaten existing terrestrial life. The jury is still out on Malthus.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

That the technology exists to accomodate such nonsensical growth in population doesn’t mean it should be employed.

While the big corporations behind such developments no doubt froth at the mouth to control our global food supply, I for one still fail to understand why we blithely ignore the realities of unnecessary population growth, wasteful and corrupt governments that do little to help their people today in the countries that will be hardest-hit by this tomorrow, and the West’s continued and blatant exploitation of the limited remaining resources at their expense.

“Oh, don’t worry, we can just engineer our way out of this?”

Yuck. Makes me glad I live in Europe, and I hope Europe continues to make a strong stand against engineered frankenfoods and the companies shoving them down the world’s throats – literally.

Posted by Kristin | Report as abusive

The artificial state of lack is created by the structure of our economy and money system which in turn causes the wrong and neglected use of earth’s resources. (Its so upside-down that waste = profit)

The planet can produces more than enough to sustain the life on it, just grow food in your garden to prove it to yourself.

Therefore the key is to allow freedom for people to act and remove the restrictions of private ownership of farmland by multinational conglomerates.

Remove private ownership of farm land and the multitude of food regulations and let people control their own lives and the poorest country’s will live in abundance with no problems whatsoever.

Do not believe the message from mainstream media that we have limited resources and there is not enough for everyone this is a gross lie, it is simple the misuses of our resources by those amongst us who are saturated by Greed that are creating systems which in turn create the lack.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

I think the experts should listen to the consumers. Why do you think organic (or bio) products are so popular despite being expensive? Sure, not everyone can afford them and not everywhere on the planet one has a choice. But as a consumer who has the choice, I have to think about myself and my family first and I see no reason whatsoever to eat GM foods.

It would be great to solve world problems by some magic technology. But so far it looks like only the people who will benefit from the production of GM foods are trying to convince us that they can do that.

Posted by Boris | Report as abusive

I live in Mendocino County on the coast of Northern California, a large, sparsely populated, rural county. We were the first county in the United States to ban the growth of GMO’s, Genetically modified Organisms. We did so because of questions about the safety of such foods and to protect our Organic Agriculture history and business.

The ban was created by a proposition vote. The industry, led by Monsanto, poured money into our county to fight the issue. They didn’t argue about the safety or benefits of their foods, but rather tried using scare tactics implying that agriculture police would be inspecting our properties for GMO’s if the proposition were to pass. Whereas that sort of tactic, created by an organization specializing in such tactics, might work in an urban community it didn’t work here because everyone knows the county does not have the resources to conduct such raids, and the community wouldn’t allow it. The proposition passed with a large majority.

What struck me to be as critical as the GMO issue, which I believe should be debated, is the issue of corporate power
and control of our agriculture. Monsanto has shown brutal power in their lawsuits against farmers who they allege have used their seeds without binding contracts.

To me the bigger issue is corporate power and control of our food supply and to a greater degree our lives.

Posted by William E. Beaumont | Report as abusive

Perhaps I’m a just a pessimist but I think mankind has already – to borrow an appropriate metaphor – “bought the farm.” The sacred goal of all nations is economic growth and even if the world’s population eventually attains a modicum of prosperity equality, continual economic growth will require continual population growth for continual job growth. It’s all about markets, markets, markets. Unfortunately, that economic parity will never be realized since we’re already short a few planets worth of resources regardless of advances in technology and we’ll never be able to make something out of nothing.
Malthus was right about the end result of population growth but was off on the time table by about 300 years. The Grim Reaper will sort things out by the end of the century even if Soylent Green is soon brought to the market.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive

This is all nonsense.. There are companies that are going to get unheard of sums of money from GM foods… Its not overpopulation or lack of the ability to grow non GMO foods.. Its all big business and who do you think is wanting the biggest chunk of that money? Any patent on things that have been here on earth free and natural is going to be a total decline of the earth as we know it.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

I think the genetically modified foods are a ticking time-bomb that when it explodes will cause major catastrophe if we are to be dependent on their growth for worldwide supply. The current death rate in bee colonies is but one example of why – it’s not a coincidence that the biggest death rates of bees lie with the gm bees. Bees provide us with food, medicine and raw material, as well as aiding the polination of crops. It shouldn’t be tampered with.
Why genetically modify successful agri-cultures when it’s the socio-economic and political human issues which are at the heart of starvation and food shortages, NOT the natural world or the crops, cattle and other cultures that have been the target of natural husbandry for millenia?
Improvements on worlwide transportation have made possible the access to normal out-of-season food, so what one half of the world cannot produce in one season, the other can, and satisfy demand year round.

Posted by Morning Breakfast | Report as abusive

“It raises the fictional starvation scenario ”

“No one is talking about bee colony decline syndrome or the importance of honey bees to agriculture.”

“All major ocean fisheries are in collapse.”

When you consider how many millions of people are already dying of starvation or living with near starvation, global climate is changing, global ecological decline, including the already well documented declines in fish, bee, bird, bat, and other animal populations and even the common garden variety journalist and the average Joe begins to realize that the scenarios scientists have been predicting since the 1950′s and 1960′s are already here.

The future is now. Its already here. These things are occurring now not in 2030. The only real question is only what are YOU going to do about it?

What do you think your grandchildren who wish that you did?

Posted by S. G. Poss | Report as abusive

Why should we trust Agra companies like “Monsanto” who obviously care not about the farmers they are putting out of business or the population they are forcing into starvation. These bastards are interested in nothing more than profit and will do whatever it takes to obtain a monopolistic power even over agriculture.

I have even heard speculation that they are planning to forcibly vaccinate us through GMO’s. We don’t even have a choice. Most people I speak to don’t even know that this type of technology even exists, let alone the health risks involved with them. This is a new technology and the repercussions are not yet known or studied well enough.

I do not want to be one of their ginny pigs thank you!

Posted by Alain Tanti | Report as abusive

GMO foods have never been fully tested for safe consumption. The few research trials that have been done, with unpleasant results, have been discredited or censured. Europe, with its socialized medicine, doesn’t want to pick up the tab for the health issues that will occur from eating GMO food. GMO seed does not produce increased yields- it just enables biotech firms to make money selling herbicides & fertilizers which trash the soil & environment, and human health.

Wedging genes from other species into food crops is just playing Russian Roulette.

Posted by Agnes Moorehead | Report as abusive

The problem with GMO’s which is what “Frankenfoods” are really called is not the nutritional values or quantities being produced… this is all PR BS, they are being modified to resist RoundUp (Known as RoundUp ready) which helps farmers with weed control but is linked to cancers and birth defects, other GMO’s are registered pesticides, do you drink the roach spray under the counter? No, eating it in your corn is not a good idea either. If you want to know more about this look up Monsanto, they have created 90% of the worlds GMO’s and not a single one of them is engineered to increase yield, nutrition, or to weather adverse conditions… they are also the makers of RoundUp… big surprise. So like I said this article is propoganda… you should also look into what Monsanto is doing to farmers.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

“Half of all glacial ice that has been here for the past million years has melted into the seas in the last 40 years. Much of it providing potable water to Eurasia.”

No, the ice didn’t melt because people are drinking potable water.

Posted by Dan Breakfust | Report as abusive

The commentators have it about right. This is a sticky problem. But as with most human problems the core of it is a kind of corruption of values. GMO crops might not be so bad if they were limited to herbicide resistant varieties so farmers could kill the weeds without killing the crops. Unfortunately the human race knows no moderation. Greed trumps all.

So now we have crops that are modified to produce their own pesticide – in the plant’s body and fruit. Well, guess what? I don’t want to eat pesticide. I don’t care how safe the seller’s of it say it is. They are about as reliable as the cigarette companies and the purveyors of plastic bottles.

Let’s face these people are willing to kill us for money. And the polticians are willing to let them get away with it. You would have to be a moron to support this kind of technology.

Oh, I get it, we’ll keep all the natural food and ship the poisoned stuff off to the third world. But guess what again? The characteristics embedded in GMO crops can migrate to other species and varieties.

So we have billions killed by the tobacco industry. How many more will get killed by agribusiness and their biotech frankenfoods. Trouble is it’s much harder to quit eating than to quit smoking.

The megafood corporation of the future?
007 Nutricidals, a license to kill.

Posted by Jonathan Cole | Report as abusive

I can’t think of a single food I eat that isn’t already a “Frankenfood”. Humankind has manipulated the genetic makeup of all our foods for thousands of years through selective breeding. This has resulted in hardier crops and greater yields. We listen to the Luddites only at the risk of billions of lives.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

A recent article in Scientific American by their editors stated that “Scientists must ask seed companies for permission before publishing independant research on genetically modified crops.” This article goes to show that companies have silenced studies that were “not flattering” to their company.

One of the cornerstones of any ethical science is that there must be an empirical and independant scientific review of scientific claims/results.

At what point will society stop trading the health of this planet and those creatures who inhabit it for the siren song of corporations who have succesfully convinced us that we can trust in their benevolence.
We see the benevolence of the misinformation originating from corporations concerning PCB’s, aerosol, tobacco smoking, nano-material toxicity, etc…

It continues to be a mark against the human conscience to continue to trade the corporate siren song for the health of our ecosystem. It is mans Achelles Heel.

Posted by ct | Report as abusive

Earth, as an organism, has an ultimate way to resolve the human crisis: total (or partial) elimination. Before any procurers of genetically modified plants, biodegradable products, green energy and so on come up with an ultimate solution, the real cure is already being brewed,–thanks to an overgrowing population of man,– by Mother Earth. H1N1 is one form of it, which, with the help of mother nature, will significantly mutate in the nearest future yielding yet another former of a deadly virus that will effectively wipe out half of the planet’s population. Problem solved. Keep in mind, this is just one meager form of species control on our planet.
To avoid this, we must implement proper education in the countries of 3rd and 2nd worlds that are the source of overpopulation, so that the next generations will exercise some sort of birth control aside from AK-47 as somebody suggested. Working on solutions to feed the overcrowding planet will only speed up our extinction through diseases or man-induced natural disasters.

Posted by Stewee Griffin | Report as abusive

These folks have blinders on. We need genetic crops to survive Global Warming? It’s gonna dry up regions.

Let’s just create a fictional situation to scare everyone into accepting genetically manipulated food. Corn is a great example. They created a corn that got a better yield to acre ratio. The problem was it was not eatable. So they soak it in lye to soften the skin so you can eat it. Well guess what, they made more corn than they can sell. So besides getting the government to pay them not to grow it they made corn syrup and got every food company to put corn syrup in everything they make. Result…great profits and an epedimic of diabetes.

The solution is new advancements in desalination. Why not take salt out of the water to have an abundance of water to grow whatever we want. People don’t need to drink water, we got soda for that, it helps sell the corn syrup.

A desalination plant to treat ocean water to irrigate wheat fields that in turn feed huge chicken farms and to make bread products is not a viable option. We need to make food better than God did.

Oh I forgot there are a bunch of scientists that want government money to keep doing research to make a living. This is not about the future, it is about money. Crops will be in trouble starting 2016 and 2017? That will give them funding for another 10 years. Nice!!!

Posted by Victor | Report as abusive

The future is already here. The starvation we see now will increase, and will be much worse by next decade.

Global warming, oil prices and population growth are inevitable. They will only make the current food crisis worse.

Nothing we do to stop global warming will prevent the effects of the next few decades, if they happen at all. And population control, while it is easy to rant about, is simply not a workable solution that we will be able to bring about.

So that leaves a simple choice:

Use GM crops and try to get a solution ready for when the food crisis finally hits it’s peak, or

Forget GM crops. Those with food will survive, at the expense of those who live in the third world. And you yet to watch as millions die on the news during 2010-20.

Pick a future. Which one is the least palatable?

And for those who decry the evils of GM crops? I would say that GM crops are no different to nuclear energy or pollution.

It is easy to object, when you have the luxury to do so. But you will be surprised what humans can be ready to accept, once it becomes a necessity.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

How about GM foods that ARE birth control?

Posted by Satan | Report as abusive

In the spirit of creating future scenarios to scare the worlds citizens to meekly accept the corporate food company products…
The year is 2034 and a high-rise multi-storey grazing building hums with the sound of cattle happily fattening themselves on bio-tech feed grown completely within the confines of the new farm model which only takes up a quarter of an acre footprint. There are 2,000 identical cloned cattle who grow predictably and at the end of their growth-cycle line up for the transport to the local abbatoir.
The “farm” manager notices something not seen for over twenty years, one of the cows appears to be lethargic and is having trouble walking. He scans the cow and makes a notes in his log of the product identity number and makes a call to the company to send out a technician for an investigation. The next day the technician arrives, but by this time all the cows are having trouble walking and seem lethargic.
The technician hasn’t seen anything like this before and calls in his supervisor on an emergency call out. By now there is a swarm of insects not seen since the successful elimination of parasites back in 2022. These insects seem to be a more aggressive form of their predecessors, and in reality have mutated into a “super parasite” impervious to the genetic enhancements which very nearly wiped out their ancestors.
The next day the entire herd is dead, and the epidemic is spreading like wild-fire throughout all the neighboring farms as they also farm identical cloned animals whose superior resistance isn’t sufficient to protect them from the newly mutated parasites. Humanity face doom… again.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

Perhaps, Peter.

But a new bug can be fought, assuming the possibility even arises. Humans are good at wiping things out. And even if we can’t, quarantine can still manage the problem.

But if people are starving, and we don’t have enough food to feed them, then they will starve. Simple as that.

So until we make the flesh-eating corn which will wipe out mankind in the early summer of 2037, I would say GM crops and cattle are the lesser of two evils.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Anon, there are already “stock piles” of butter, milk, sugar, tomatoes and a welter of other products being brought by the EU by over-producing farmers, who over-produce certain products in the knowledge it will be brought with tax-payer funds. Then there are yet other farmers being paid by the same organisation NOT to produce anything!
Some of these over-produced products ends up in “emerging markets” such as can be found in Africa (where most of your starving people are to be found) which knocks their own farmers into oblivion as they can’t compete with subsidised products that are dumped on them. These products are sold at uncompetitive prices and aren’t used to feed starving people at all, they simply undermine the farmers who should be being encouraged, not undermined.
The suggestion that unfortunate starving people in the third-world can only be saved by GM just doesn’t stack up. GM food producers want to control the markets for their own benefit, not anyone elses.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

I am afraid your argument does not add up. Were these massive stockpiles sufficient to combat the food crisis, there would be no starvation in Africa.

But there is. There is not enough food, even with all the cheap stuff from Europe. And according to the law of demand and supply, that means there is plenty of demand for African farmers to sell their own food, were they capable of meeting that demand.

So what is the solution? Sell the stockpiles at a realistic price which Africans can’t afford? Give all the food away for free, and remove the very incentive for producing stockpiles in the first place? Genocide or population control, when the population refuses to control their own growth?

My argument is that the food problem is going to get much worse in the future, for a variety of reasons. Global warming is a possibile factor. Fuel crisis and population growth are a guarantee.

And it is absolutely true that GM companies only look out for their own profits and interests. But that in itself does not have any relevence to a possible food crisis, or the fact that GM crops may be the only practical solution.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

“Malthusian years” are not about food supply.
It is all about social development and population growth.
The painful truth is, that in developing countries population growth is only checked by food supply. As soon as food production drops hanger comes. But extra food immediately leads to population hike to unsustainable level. Most Africans communities cannot sustain current population with current development level. But next development level only comes with more stable societies.

Sending food to Africa will change result in more starvation, we must finance nation building.

Posted by Sergey | Report as abusive

The problems with genetic modification of the food supply are related to three facts:
1. That genes express multiple traits.
2. These traits aren’t even close to being understood in a comprehensive framework.
3. The viruses that are used to insert the DNA can have unforeseen consequences.
Ask any geneticist what they call 95% of all DNA they come across in their daily functions: Junk DNA. This “Junk” has evidently just been hanging around not doing much. This “filler” is just what nature puts around it’s creamy center of DNA that actually does anything they say. I say it’s function is as yet unknown.

They just realized some of this “Junk” was actually the source of the Epigenetic behavior that had been observed since 1942, but whose mechanism was unknown. This portion of the “Junk” was shown to directly effect the expression of traits of later generations based on the conditions of the parents prior to conception. So people who were exposed to pesticides could condemn their family to four generations of cancer. Greed and unforeseen consequences can be poor mix for the public at large.

Posted by chris | Report as abusive