In a new report, På väg mot 9 miljarder (Towards 9 Billion), launched on 11 April, SEI researcher Ivar Virgin explores how biotechnology, including GM, can contribute solutions to the increasing demand for sustainable food, energy and chemicals. The report also takes a close look at the situation in Europe, not least the regulatory framework and research innovation.
Advances in genetic engineering allows us to develop resource-efficient crops that use water, nutrition, energy and agricultural land more optimally than today. This technology also gives us the ability to tailor crops to produce, for example, biofuels, green bio-based chemicals, oils and biodegradable plastic and thus develop a sustainable bio-economy.
However, the debate over genetic engineering in Europe and beyond has placed potential advantages and possible risks at loggerheads. This polarisation has hobbled policy making and contributed to a situation in which the development of genetically modified (GM) crops has been largely dominated by a few multinational companies.
This report aims to stimulate a discussion on how modern life sciences could contribute to sustainable agriculture. It also argues that is important to strengthen the countries of the South, especially in Africa, so that governments and smallholder farmers can assess modern biotechnologies and, as appropriate, apply them.
The report suggests that the EU should try to develop a regulatory framework that complements today’s important risk assessment of GM crops with a deeper analysis of the crop and its potential negative or positive effects on the environment, health, food and energy security. Such an analysis would help us to work out how to use gene technology as a tool to develop resource-efficient agriculture and a sustainable bio-economy.
This report is part of a series on environment, growth and consumption by Timbro, a Swedish think tank. Read more about the report on the Timbro website (in Swedish)»