GM food production increasing
The future in feeding the projected more than 9 billion world population by 2050 will require doubling the world’s food production, according to the most accepted projections.
Increased yield per acre/hectare in crop production is definitely necessary because farmland is limited and even shrinking.
What continues to be the most controversial question is whether farmers and ranchers can double food production without the world embracing genetically modified (GM) food production. Even though it has been about 20 years since the introduction of GM crops, expansion of biotech foods has been slow.
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of AgriBiotech Application (ISAAA), as of 2011, there were still only a few direct consumption GM foods being grown. But GM crops have started to increase more rapidly in the last five years as more research is being initiated or completed and governments are coming to grips with how to register GM crops.
As of the end of 2011, direct consumption food crops grown commercially or in research trials included papaya, squash, tomatoes, sweet peppers, eggplants, sweet corn, potatoes, starch bananas and rice. The remainder of crops being grown and in research that are normally processed as ingredients for food and feed or non-consumption products, included field corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, canola, wheat and poplar trees.
In 29 countries, an estimated total of 160 million hectares of biotech crops were grown in 2011, which was 12 million hectares more than in 2010, reported the ISAAA. Two-thirds of the increased hectares occurred in developing countries and that is a positive development because those countries are where the greatest population increases will occur heading to 2050.
Of course, the United States continues to overpower any other country’s biotech crop production; its nearest competition in GM crop production is Brazil—69 million hectares compared to 30.3 million hectares in 2011.
GMO AND ADVANCED BREEDING
There can be some confusion about biotechnology crops and GM crops because the GM descriptor means “plants are developed by introducing and incorporating a specific trait (gene) from one species of plant or organism into the genome of another plant to enhance or protect the crop.” That is the definition of a “transgenic” or GM crop, as explained by Syngenta in its biotechnology overview brochure.
Also, some say there is biotechnology involved in “advanced breeding” because “it is now possible to know the entire genomic sequence of an organism in a few days,” Syngenta also explained. “This new genome-wide perspective allows for gene discovery and association of gene(s) to desirable traits. As a result, thousands of genes have been identified and mapped to a location on specific chromosomes for many organisms.” The result is “marker-assisted” traditional breeding. “Marker-assisted breeding allows desirable traits such as higher yield, increased nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency, better water use or improved quality to be directly bred for in the field.”