When the Royal Society (of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge) issues reports, lots of people pay attention. When it takes on controversy, in this case promoting (among other things) the genetic modification (GM) of food to alleviate short supply for the coming growth in world population, then it gets all kinds of attention.
As might be expected, the Royal Society report has touched off a flurry of protest from anti-GM spokespeople. (See the Guardian reference below for some quotes.) At the very least, the weight of the Royal Society in matters of science means the issue of GM, along with (hopefully) several other issues related to food production, distribution, and consumption will be addressed.
In its report the Royal Society said that GM techniques would be needed to boost yields and help crops survive harsher climates, as the global population rises and global warming worsens.
The report said the changing diets of people around the world, the likely impact of climate change and growing scarcity of water and land made it harder to increase food production to meet an expected rise in global population of 3 billion by the mid-century. Production methods would need to sustain the environment, preserve natural resources and support the livelihoods of farmers and rural populations around the world, it added.
[Professor David Baulcombe, a plant scientist at the University of Cambridge who chaired the study, said:] “There is no panacea for ensuring global food security. Science-based approaches introduced alongside social science and economic innovations are essential if we’re to have a decent chance of feeding the world’s population in 40 years’ time. Technologies that work on a farm in the UK may have little impact for harvests in Africa. Research is going to need to take into account a diverse range of crops, localities, cultures and numerous other circumstances.”
[Source: The Guardian]