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What is your opinion mind you Id like the expert opinion not regurgitated source materials on the amount of food wasted each year in America, and its relation for our seeming need for GMOs to feed the world. Please be direct

Submitted by: cmanionEarth


Expert response from Community Manager

Monday, 18/05/2015 16:35

Food waste in both rich and developing countries is a problem that needs to be addressed, but it takes on much different forms depending on where you live. Even if we were able to prevent all food waste, it would not preclude the need for greater sustainable productivity for which biotechnology provides many solutions.


Let’s first talk about waste. In developed economies like the United States, I’ve seen it estimated that as much as 30 percent of our food is wasted, mostly after purchase. This would include food that is prepared but tossed, or food that sits in the refrigerator too long and passes the expiration date, for example. In developing countries, the greatest loss comes after harvest, but before preparation – insect and disease loss, for example, while grain is in storage. Initiatives exist to lower both forms of loss, but improving productivity remains highly important.


The African continent is a good example of the need to improve productivity. Between 1980 and 2010 the population approximately doubled, and is set to double again by 2050 or so. Meanwhile, yield of the two most important grains on the continent, maize and sorghum, have risen by only 50 percent and 15 percent respectively – obviously not keeping pace.


We also need to keep in mind that improving productivity is not the only challenge, but that productivity must be accomplished in a sustainable manner (Tilman et al, 2011). Labor is becoming an even greater issue in many countries, as large population centers grow while rural areas become less populated. This means each hectare of land, and each person working that land, must become more productive to better utilize the available inputs of land, labor, and water.


Biotechnology is one of the tools to help us meet these multiple challenges. Genetic modification saved the Hawaiian papaya industry, and new GM technologies to protect potatoes against bruising and apples from browning could reduce waste if these technologies are broadly commercialized. Beyond the United States though, GM technology could also be applied to smallholder agriculture more broadly to ease the intense labor of crop production, help manage pest pressure and even improve the nutrition of staple crops. A recent paper found that the greatest beneficiaries of GM crops are smallholder farmers in developing countries.


Biotechnology is not the only solution, of course, but could be an important part of an integrated production system that improves both productivity and sustainability.