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Can the world afford to ignore biotechnology solutions that address food insecurity?

Abstract

Genetically engineered (GE) crops can be used as part of a combined strategy to address food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of sustainable access to safe and nutritious food. In this article, we discuss the causes and consequences of food insecurity in the developing world, and the indirect economic impact on industrialized countries. We dissect the healthcare costs and lost productivity caused by food insecurity, and evaluate the relative merits of different intervention programs including supplementation, fortification and the deployment of GE crops with higher yields and enhanced nutritional properties. We provide clear evidence for the numerous potential benefits of GE crops, particularly for small-scale and subsistence farmers. GE crops with enhanced yields and nutritional properties constitute a vital component of any comprehensive strategy to tackle poverty, hunger and malnutrition in developing countries and thus reduce the global negative economic effects of food insecurity.

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Acknowledgments

Research at the Universitat de Lleida is supported by MICINN, Spain (BFU2007-61413; BIO2011-23324; BIO02011-22525; PIM2010PKB-00746); European Union Framework 7 Program-SmartCell Integrated Project 222716; European Union Framework 7 European Research Council IDEAS Advanced Grant (to PC) Program-BIOFORCE; COST Action FA0804: Molecular farming: plants as a production platform for high value proteins; COST Action FA1006: Plant Engine: Plant metabolic engineering for high value products; Centre CONSOLIDER on Agrigenomics funded by MICINN, Spain and RecerCaixa.

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Correspondence to Paul Christou.

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Judit Berman and Changfu Zhu contributed equally to this work.

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Berman, J., Zhu, C., Pérez-Massot, E. et al. Can the world afford to ignore biotechnology solutions that address food insecurity?. Plant Mol Biol 83, 5–19 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11103-013-0027-2

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Keywords

  • Genetically engineered crops
  • Food insecurity
  • Nutritionally enriched crops
  • Economic impact