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Declining world grain stocks may ease resistance to biotech

“We’re also urging countries to remove barriers to advanced crops developed through biotechnology. These crops are safe, they’re resistant to drought and disease, and they hold the promise of producing more food for more people.”

Surprisingly, those words aren’t from one of the numerous scientists or humanitarians who have endorsed the continued expansion of biotechnology as a means for boosting world food production — they’re from none other than anti-science poster child George W. Bush.

In an address on skyrocketing food prices and the potential for worldwide shortages, the president also called on Congress to increase funding for U.S. aid programs and for agricultural development programs to help farmers in developing nations, urged governments in G8 nations to make similar commitments and to lift restrictions on agricultural exports, and urged the completion of the Doha agreement to reduce and eliminate tariffs, along with market-distorting subsidies for agricultural goods. “We’re sending a clear message to the world — that America will lead the fight against hunger for years to come,” Mr. Bush said.

The threat of increased global hunger and record grain prices in the face of declining world stocks may, ironically, do more to further the cause of biotech crops than dozens of PR firms working full bore trying to counter the hysteria fanned by anti-GMO groups.

In the European Community, which has been at the forefront of opposition to “Frankenfoods,” the New York Times reports that pressures are increasing on government and business officials to speed approvals of GMO crops, while British livestock producers have demanded that “all resistance to these crops be abandoned immediately.”

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper noted: “We must recognize that a big part of this problem is our own fault — because of our ill-thought-out enthusiasm for using food to fuel cars as well as stomachs, and because of our long-established, but also ill-considered, opposition to the use of genetic engineering to help us grow more food.”

The last time grain prices spiked this fast and this high was in the early 1970s, Colin A. Carter and Henry I. Miller wrote in a recent op-ed piece for the Orange County Register. “The Club of Rome, a high profile global think tank, predicted a worldwide catastrophe due to food shortages.”

It didn’t happen, say Carter and Miller, because “predictions of catastrophic global famine underestimate the resilience derived from technological innovation in agriculture and farmers’ response to profit incentives.

“Technological innovation and the adoption of improved techniques in agriculture will offset the 2008 food crisis.”

While U.S. and European ethanol subsidies may have helped create the current “artificial food crisis,” Davis and Miller say it will nonetheless “spur innovation, including greater use of gene splicing for the development of improved plant varieties (and) that, in turn, will boost farm incomes in developing countries and moderate the price of food worldwide.”

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