Sunday, September 9, 2007

Drought-resistant genetically modified crops sought

The Standard (Kenya): Plant breeders have been challenged to develop genetically modified (GM) crops that are relevant to the needs of developing countries, especially in light of the effects of climate change.

Scientists are debating whether it is time to introduce drought resistant cereal crops. Agricultural experts are concerned that most of the GM crops so far developed are not best suited to address the serious challenges of climate change in developing countries.

"Most genetically modified (GM) crops being cultivated today were developed to be herbicide tolerant and resistant to pests. Development of GM crops with traits valuable for poor farmers, especially within the context of climate change - such as resistance to drought, extreme temperatures, soil acidity and salinity - is not yet a reality," states Dr Jacques Diouf, Director-General, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

"I cannot sufficiently underline the need to also address the needs of resource poor farmers in rainfed areas and on marginal lands," says Diouf, "Ensuring that new biotechnologies help achieve this goal, in full awareness of biosafety, socio economic and ethical concerns associated with the use of some of these technologies remains a challenge for the entire scientific community."

Diouf states that science and technology must spearhead agricultural production in the next 30 years at a pace faster than the Green Revolution did during the past three decades.

…Diouf warns that climate change is likely to undermine food production in the developing world, while industrialised countries could gain in production potential….

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