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Genetically Modified Crops

Food security - today

The issue of world food production is often given as a reason to further GM research. Many institutions and biotech companies are promoting GM crops as a response to world hunger and future world food needs. To understand this we need to know a bit about food production levels.

The Ideal of food security

Open quoteFood security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifeClose quote
World Food Summit (1996)

Click to enlarge
Aka tribe lady sorting rice - Burma

How well do we live up to this ideal?

  • 1 billion people live in absolute poverty with chronic hunger.
  • 70% are subsistance farmers who work on small plots of land with poor food yields, in environments prone to poor soil, natural disasters and epidemics of pests and weeds.
  • Chemical fertilisers and pesticides are expensive and can harm human health, destroy wildlife and contaminate water supplies.
  • In poor countries, pesticides banned in the West are used routinely, without protection for the health of the farmer.
  • The only way poor farmers can grow more food is to clear more forest for farmland, which leads to more soil degradation, and thus the need to clear more forest.

Is there enough food for everyone in the world?

  • The world food output for 1994 divided by the world population in 2000
    would provide 2500 calories per day, per person – a more than adequate diet for all.
  • Over the past 30 years, global food production has kept up with a world population increase of 70%.
  • But the largest growth in population has occurred in poor countries, where food output has not grown to match needs.

Thus some say that the ‘food problem’ is a matter of distribution rather than food production.

What about future trends in food production?

 The impending food crisis


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Open quotea whole range of unjust and inequitable political and economic structures, especially those relating to land and trade, marginalize poor people and deprive them of the means to eat.Close quote
The CornerHouse (1994)


 Some facts about world poverty
 Can the planet feed us? BBC News

Make a list of the reasons why you think the issue of food distribution might have come about. What are the factors that prevent people in under developed countries from having access to an adequate supply of food?