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It is difficult for me to see how the growing world population could be fed with only organically grown food. If GMO crops were eliminated, what would be the effect on the worlds food supply?

Submitted by: Friend of Ag


Expert response from Janet Carpenter

Owner, J E Carpenter Consulting LLC M.S. Agricultural and Resource Economics

Friday, 24/07/2015 10:00

The number of people who are undernourished globally has been decreasing for over 20  years, with greater decreases in developing countries, but remains high, with an estimated 795 million people undernourished in 2015 (FAO 2015).  As the world population increases in the coming decades, the number of people at risk of hunger is expected to increase.  The causes of hunger are complex, including slow economic and less inclusive economic growth, political instability, lack of social protections and natural and human-induced disasters.  However, a key to making progress is increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers. 


In a recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), several agricultural technologies were evaluated for their impact on forecasted yields and hunger under climate change to 2050 (IFPRI 2014).  Organic agriculture was among the technologies considered, but due to consistently decreased yields reported in the scientific literature and expert consultations, the authors concluded that organic agriculture was unlikely to play a significant role in the technology mix for addressing food security at the global level.


If GMO crops were eliminated, the immediate impact would be the elimination of significant productivity increases already realized, particularly for smallholder farmers in developing countries.  (See Klumper & Qaim 2013.)  Perhaps more importantly, a set of powerful tools for crop improvement would be lost, one that has an excellent record of benefits and safety.  There is much unrealized potential from available GM crops that could be adopted in countries where they are not currently grown, as well as from technology that is still in development.  The genetic modification of crops, with traits such as pest and disease tolerance, stress tolerance and enhanced nutritional characteristics can contribute to meeting the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population in the decades to come.