It's GM or Starvation
Home ] Bush talks sense on environment ] Campaigns ] Commentary ] Doomsday predictions ] Earthquake News ] Electromagnetic radiation ] Environmental news ] GM stuff ] Fishing ] Forests ] Global warming ] Green watch ] Hunting stuff ] Lomborg ] Mining Industry news ] Miscellaneous ] Mountains ] Planning ] I remember it well ] Nuclear power ] Oil ] People who should know better ] precautionary principle ] Privatisation ] Railways ] Roads ] "Things are getting better" stuff ] Tourism ] Water ] Wind power ]

You have reached  In December 2006 we moved to with faster servers and discussion boards.  Click here to follow us.  

Home ] Up ]

Says Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug 

Biotechnology is the key to feeding the world.

THE world's population was about 500 million in 1650. It did not reach one billion until 1850.  When I was born 89 years ago, the world's population was 1.5 billion people. Now it is 6.2 billion. There are now 80 million more people to feed every year.

The green revolution has had a huge impact on feeding this population. Take India, for example. Indian wheat production in 1961 was 11 million tonnes. By 2000, this had grown to 76 million tonnes.  Yields went from 856kg a hectare to 2.9 tonnes a hectare. Despite India's population growing from 452 million in 1961 to 1.02 billion in 2000, they were still producing enough food to feed themselves.  The cultivated land area went from 11 million hectares to about 22 million hectares.

If you tried to produce the harvest of 2000 with the yield of 1961, you would have had to cut down all the forests.  On a world basis, cereal production in 1949 to 1951 averaged 650 million tonnes.  From 1997 to 1999, average production was 1887 million tonnes. The land used, on average, was 660 million hectares.

If you had tried to produce the harvest of 1999 with the technology of 1950, you would have required another 1.1 billion hectares of land. Biotechnology is a wonderful new tool to complement the genetic and plant breeding methods used before.  The difference is we can reach across the taxonomic barriers that we could not cross before due to sterility.  This technology opens many new doors for disease and insect resistance.

Mother Nature was showing these genetic modifications long before Neolithic women began agriculture some 10,000 years before Christ.  Wheat is a good example of Mother Nature building a pretty complex organism.  First, it crossed wild triticum with Aegilops speltoides to produce spaghetti wheat.  Later, Mother Nature made another cross with Aegilops tauschii (goat grass) to produce the bread wheats.

She did not do this overnight: a million years did not make much difference to her.  But today, we have to use new technology or move into marginal areas and plough up more fields, with more erosion and destruction of wildlife.  But we need to find the middle of the road, whether it is biotechnology or conventional genetics and plant breeding.

One of my concerns is that too much of the genetically modified organism technology is falling into the hands of one or two companies.  I don't believe in a monopoly and the best protection is public sector programs or growers and the public sector working together, such as in Australia.

iGreen note: 

OMIGOD Norman! You can't be serious.  Have you ever seen the public sector grow food?  It can't do it.  GM is accumulating in the hands of a couple of companies because only huge companies have the resources to deal with the regulatory burden, and to face down the GM activists and their friends in government.  If politicians had let them alone many would still be in the hands of the biotech startups which invented them.  

With the technology available now or in the research pipeline, we can feed 10 billion people by the middle of this century.  This has to be complemented with good agronomy, good weed control and good irrigation. You have to get the right economic policies to permit the farmer to adopt new technology.  If these pieces come together, this will be a continuation of the green revolution.

I get sick and tired of listening to people who say we can produce enough food with organic fertilisers. Don't get me wrong: I support food being produced by organic fertilisers.  But don't give Third World nations the idea that you can produce food for 6.2 billion people without destroying many lands that should not be opened up for cultivation.

The question remains: will the world's farmers be permitted to use this GM technology to benefit humankind? International agricultural research expenditure is decreasing due to the lack of spending by the World Bank and other agencies.  The world spends $US850 billion each year on weaponry, of which the US accounts for 47 per cent. But there is no money for food, roads or schools in the Third World.

As Nobel Peace laureate John Boyd Orr said: "You can't build peace on empty stomachs."

- NORMAN BORLAUG, April 9, 2003, 

Reprinted from the Herald and Weekly Times (Australia)

Home ] Up ]

You have reached  In December 2006 we moved to with faster servers and discussion boards.  Click here to follow us.  

Send mail to  with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: September 20, 2006