GM Food can prevent Global Hunger – but not as part of a Global Plan

According to the Telegraph today, Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government’s recognizes that genetically modified foods are part of the solution to growing population and climate change. He has a point, but only if Government’s do not create a plan. If climate change happens, it will happen in ways that we have not predicted. It will not be in more frequent category five hurricanes in the Caribbean, nor the sudden disappearance of the Amazon through a dramatic drop in precipitation, nor the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melting one summer (causing a four metre rise in sea levels), nor permanent drought in Eastern Australia, nor the shrinkage of water supplies in Northern India through the rapid disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. If it does happen, the form of rapid climate change will probably have not been predicted. We could develop drought resistant crops for areas that get higher rainfall, or disease resistant crops where we get drought. The best policy to alleviate hunger is to stop doing anything that may cause it. There are two things that have caused hunger in the last century.

  1. Collectivization and State Planning. The vast majority of deaths through starvation in the twentieth century were due to this cause, including 5 million under Lenin’s Soviet Union, 8 million under Stalin, 1-3 million under the current North Korean dictatorship in the 1990s and 20 million plus as a result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward
  2. War such as the Second World War, or the war in Congo in the 1990s have lead to mass hunger as well.

The best way to prevent famine is to have a peaceful, integrated world economy, where every nation has developed far enough for only a small proportion of the national output to be devoted to food production for consumption within the nation. In consumption terms it means a small proportion of average disposable incomes being spent on food. That implies globalization and free trade to foster economic growth.

Government’s and International Agencies, in meeting future needs, should first aim to do no harm. In the last few years world food prices have more than doubled, adversely affecting the non-farming world’s poor. A contributing factor is the impact is the competition from bio fuels, especially ethanol. This could become more significant if rapid climate change reduces global food production capacity.

Update – on a similar theme, Haunting the Library takes George Monbiot to task in a 2002 prophecy that there would be starving inten years if we did not all become vegans.


1 Comment

  1. Stuart Fairney

     /  25/01/2011

    A brilliant link if I may say so, thanks for that one.

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