Anti-biotech activists threaten agricultural gains
Texas A&M University professor Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in agriculture in 1970, is warning of a growing anti-biotech movement in countries such as India. Fear-mongers, he says, could lead poor countries to back off from use of inorganic fertilisers and synthetic pesticides risking the return of famines that preceded their introduction. As of 1965, wheat yields were 4.6 million tons in Pakistan and 12.3 million in India and famine was widespread in both countries.
Then Borlaug persuaded both countries to try highly productive dwarf wheat and practise improved integrated crop management.
The change has been so successful that this year Pakistan harvested 20 million tons and India brought in 73.5 million tons all-time records.
But now India is considering outlawing inorganic, synthetic fertilisers which Borlaug fears would seriously diminish the country's ability to feed its one billion people.
New and improved agricultural technologies have also resulted in enormously higher yields in the U.S.
In 1960, U.S. production of the 17 most important food, feed and fibre crops was 252 million tons.
By 1999, it had increased to 700 million tons produced on 10 million fewer acres than were cultivated in 1960.
If the U.S. had tried to produce the harvest of 1999 with the technology of 1960, it would have had to increase cultivated areas by about 460 million acres which it does not have.
Source: Norman Borlaug (Texas A&M University), We Need Biotech to Feed the World, Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2000.
For text http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB976067179268347062.htm
For more on Hunger http://www.ncpa.org/pi/internat/intdex11.html
Publish date: 19 December 2000
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