Genetically modified crops — that can feed 9 billion by 2050 and tolerate heat, drought and disease — are the future of sustainable agriculture, writes David Rotman, editor of MIT Technology Review.
Crops yields have slowed, Rotman says. Wheat yields are growing at about 1 percent annually; they need to increase about 2 percent annually to match food demand. “Agricultural experts warn that yields will have to improve for other crops as well if we are to feed a rapidly growing population — and yet rising temperatures and other effects of global climate change will make this tougher to achieve,” he says.
Advances in biotech have made genetic engineering practices far more sophisticated than the transgenic techniques used in first-generation GMOs, Rotman writes. New genome engineering tools allow geneticists to edit plant DNA, making changes on chromosomes to create desirable traits instead of adding foreign genes.
Global sales of non-GMO food and beverage products will double to $800 billion by 2017, growth largely driven by demand in Europe and the US, according to a report by Packaged Facts published last month. The report, Non-GMO Foods: Global Market Perspective, says European consumers have rejected foods made using ingredients with genetically modified organisms, forcing international food companies such as Unilever, Nestlé and Coca-Cola to introduce or begin to develop non-GMO versions of their products.
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