Agricultural Biotechnology’s Potential Contribution to Global Food Security and Stewardship of the Earth’s Resources

Over the coming decades, food and agricultural production systems must be significantly enhanced to respond to a number of transformative changes. These changes include a growing world population, increasing international competition, globalization, increasing meat consumption in developing countries, and rising consumer demands for improved food quality, safety, nutritional content, convenience, and provenance.

New and innovative techniques for improving the efficiency of the global agriculture sector will be required to ensure an ample supply of healthy food. From the food deserts of inner cities to the infertile areas of many regions, access to a healthy diet remains elusive for many. Dramatic increases in the occurrence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and related ailments in more-affluent countries are in sharp contrast to the chronic malnutrition in many lower-income cou Both sets of problems require a modified food supply, and the tools of biotechnology, while not the sole solution, have a significant role to play.

Agricultural biotechnology, including advanced plant breeding and genetic engineering (GM crops), has already helped farmers around the world boost their productivity and grow crops in more ecologically healthy fields, while allowing much more efficient use of resources. This technology allows reduced tillage, which cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions, water runoff, soil erosion, and fuel consumption. This technology also allows improved pest control, increased yields on existing acreage, and reduced pressure to convert forests and wildlands into farmland. However, the technology’s potential may remain unfulfilled if such barriers as disproportionate and nonrisk-based regulatory regimes, effective disinformation campaigns, and lack of resources prevail.