A lot of light and not much heat came from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Study Week on ‘Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development’ held in the Vatican earlier this year. The summary of proceedings are given at http://tinyurl.com/pontifical-summary, from papers published in http://tinyurl.com/pontifical-science – New Biotechnology 27(5): 445 – 717 .
The full presentations are available from http://tinyurl.com/pontifical-presentations and give a remarkable range of data.
The conclusions of the meeting are:
- More than 1 billion of the world population of 6.8 billion people are currently undernourished, a condition that urgently requires the development of new agricultural systems and technologies.
- The expected addition of 2-2.5 billion people to reach a total of approximately 9 billion people by 2050 adds urgency to this problem. (p. 646)
- The predicted consequences of climate change and associated decreases in the availability of water for agriculture will also affect our ability to feed the increased world population.
- Agriculture as currently practised is unsustainable, evidenced by the massive loss of topsoil and unacceptably high applications of pesticides throughout most of the world.
- The appropriate application of GE and other modern molecular techniques in agriculture is contributing toward addressing some of these challenges.
- There is nothing intrinsic about the use of GE technologies for crop improvement that would cause the plants themselves or the resulting food products to be unsafe.
- The scientific community should be responsible for research and development (R&D) leading to advances in agricultural productivity, and should also endeavour to see that the benefits associated with such advances accrue to the benefit of the poor as well as to those in developed countries who currently enjoy relatively high standards of living.
- Special efforts should be made to provide poor farmers in the developing world with access to improved GE crop varieties adapted to their local conditions.
- Research to develop such improved crops should pay particular attention to local needs and crop varieties and to the capacity of each country to adapt its traditions, social heritage and administrative practices to achieve the successful introduction of GE crops.