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 GM biotechnology: 6. Thoughts and issues on using GM the world production of food

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INDEX of biology notes on genetics and applications of GM biotechnology from agriculture to medicine


(6) Thoughts and issues on using GM the world production of food

See also more detailed Food Security gcse biology revision notes

Food and the world's population

Lets start with some statistics - two graphs of population and energy use.

The graphs shows the acceleration of the world's population and therefore and increasing food demand.

Although I have no data myself on the world's total food production, but there are some graphs on ...

https://ourworldindata.org/yields-and-land-use-in-agriculture ...

which clearly show a similar pattern in agricultural production.

BUT how long can this be sustained?, and there millions (billions?) of undernourished people suffering from starvation and disease, primarily from lack of local food production for one reason or another e.g. climate conditions, war, overuse of soil using non-sustainable agricultural practice.

To minimise the effects of lack of food, everyone should have access to safe nutritious food - sufficient as well as providing a balanced diet - this concept is known as 'food security'.

Food security can be defined as "the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food".

GM crops can help, but it is only one approach to increasing food production:

As already describe above, some developments so far include:

genetically engineered crops can be designed to be pest resistant and survive in drought conditions,

and crops can be GM designed to combat certain nutrient deficiencies e.g. increasing the content of a chemical in 'Golden Rice' that helps make Vitamin A in the body.

However, there are still issue of concern where GM is of little help:

Poor quality soil lacking in nutrients or water means crops will fail, even if they are GM.

Though extra nutrients - fertiliser can still be added to the soil.

Hunger exists where people cannot afford to buy food, even if it is available, therefore you need political and economic strategies to tackle poverty and improve/make fairer the economy and maybe import food too.

There is a danger that the agricultural production of a country might be too dominated by multinational companies that manufacture the GM seeds.

GM crops are not the complete answer and neither should they always the 'first choice' in the future.

There are reason for lack of food which GM cannot do little about e.g.

Poor soil can be improved by application of fertilisers, but not overuse, which causes environmental problems.

You can control disease and insect infestation without using GM crops and/or herbicides and pesticides.

You can use biological methods to control pests - deploying other organisms to reduce pest numbers which can act as predators or parasites.

These biological methods can be more sustainable than chemical pesticides, so less harmful to the environment.

See also more detailed Food Security gcse biology revision notes


Summary of learning objectives and key words or phrases

Be able to understand and discuss issues concerning using GM products in agriculture to increase the world production of food for a rising population.


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