The genetic revolution

In the light of the current food crisis, to increase agricultural productivity on a global scale, it’s possible to expand total cultivated land, but the areas which are currently available are less and less: in Asia, for example, arable land is already all employed. In any case, the extension of arable land would allow for an increase of agricultural production by only 20% and would cause a more substantial environmental impact of the use of natural resources. As an alternative, it would be possible to intensify production itself, introducing even more invasive techniques than those currently adopted but this would lead to an increase in production which wouldn’t be higher than 10%. The most substantial contribution to the increase in the availability of agricultural products, instead, seems to come from the improvement of biotechnologies which would determine a 70% increase in global agricultural production.
Biotechnologies, as defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992, don’t concern only Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) but to a range of products as vaccines, improved varieties, micrpropagated plants (virus-free). Application of technologies to agriculture must aim to resolve famine and poverty problems in developing countries, allowing to increase the production of local small farmers and must conform to strict criteria related to biosecurity, that is men’s health, biodiversity preservation and ecological sustainability. Brazil, India and China, the countries with greatest population growth, are currently achieving cutting edge results in the field of agricultural biotechnologies. Among developing countries (DCs), instead, 23 countries are capable of applying biotechnologies through development projects; 14 develop and apply some biotechnologies. Thanks to the introduction of varieties of cultivations which give high returns, chemical products and new irrigation techniques, the so-called “green revolution” in the ‘60s and ‘70s has increased crops yields and has helped millions of people to fight famine and poverty. Today, though, many small farmers can’t move beyond subsistence agriculture and every day more than 854 million people, according to the latest FAO estimates, don’t have enough to eat. Billions of people suffer of trace elements deficiencies, a form of insidious malnutrition caused by unbalanced nutrition. And in the following thirty years there will be two billion people in the world which will need to be fed – whereas natural resources on which agriculture depends become more and more frail.

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