GM foods help fight hunger

26 May, 2004 10:00 PM
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THE world's poor are missing out on the benefits from genetically modified (GM) food because research and technology is concentrated on big money crops - cotton, maize, canola and soybean - rather than on poor country staples like potatoes, cassava, rice and wheat.

That's according to the annual report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation published last week.

"Neither the private nor the public sector has invested significantly in new genetic technologies for the so-called orphan crops such as cowpea, millet, sorghum and tef that are critical for the food supply and livelihoods of the world's poorest people," FAO director general Jacques Diouf said.

The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-04 report said drought and insect-resistant crops could boost yields and incomes while reducing food prices.

"And with the world population set to rise by two billion over the next 30 years, such crops could help meet food needs," the report said.

Mr Diouf said other barriers that prevented the poor from accessing and fully benefiting from modern biotechnology included inadequate regulatory procedures, complex intellectual property issues, poorly functioning markets and seed delivery systems, and weak domestic plant breeding capacity.

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