Biotechnology and the Quest for Food Security: Panacea, Panoply or Palliative?
Biotechnology can help confer traits in crops and livestock that enhance yields and quality and reduce costs, often with attendant benefits to the environment. In economic terms biotechnology offers the potential of substantially reducing the research time and costs of genetically enhancing crops and livestock. Biotechnology is viewed as a way of substantially lifting yield potentials in much the same way as conventional breeding did with the dwarfing genes leading to the Green Revolution in rice and wheat in the 1960s. To realise this potential for developing countries will require more explicit attention to their priorities and an array of complementary investments and policies. These include an increased focus on ‘orphan crops’ and traits of particular relevance to the poor and food insecure, and on more marginal environments. In addition these will require enabling policies and enhanced public agricultural R&D investments that will facilitate publicprivate partnerships in developing countries. Substantial increases in other multi-sectoral investments are also required if child malnutrition, the most insidious form of food and nutrition insecurity is to be meaningfully reduced. Increased food production alone, even aided and abetted by biotechnology, will not suffice. Biotechnology alone is not a panacea for achieving food security, or even a panoply. As argued in this paper, at best it is a palliative requiring many complements.
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