Use of Modern Biotechnology for Economic Growth!
In developing countries, there is very little commercial utilisation of results from modern biotechnology research. As a result, the potential contributions of biotechnology to poverty alleviation and enhanced food security and nutrition in developing countries have received little attention, beyond blanket statements of support or opposition.
Small-scale farmers in developing countries are faced with many problems and constraints. Pre-and postharvest crop losses due to insects, diseases, weeds, and droughts result in low and fluctuating yields, as well as risks and fluctuations in incomes and food availability.
Low soil fertility and lack of access to reasonably priced plant nutrients, along with acid, salinated, and waterlogged soils and other abiotic factors, contribute to low yields, production risks, and degradation of natural resources as poor farmers try to eke out a living. They are often forced to clear forest or farm ever more marginal land to cultivate crops.
Poor infrastructure and poorly functioning markets for inputs and outputs together with lack of access to credit and technical assistance add to the impediments facing these farmers. These farmers and other rural and urban poor people suffer from food insecurity and poor nutrition, caused in large measure by poverty and lack of nutritional balance in the diet they can afford.
About 1.2 billion people, or one of every five humans, live in a state of absolute poverty, on the equivalent of US$1/day or less. About 800 million people are food insecure, and 160 million preschool children suffer from energy-protein malnutrition, which results in the death of over 5 million children under the age of five each year.
A much larger number of people suffer from deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron and vitamin A. For example, 2 billion people (one of every three) are anemic, usually as a result of iron deficiency. Food insecurity and malnutrition result in serious public health problems and lost human potential in developing countries.
Around 70 percent of poor and food-insecure people reside in rural areas, although poverty and food insecurity appear to be growing in urban areas as urbanisation proceeds apace in developing countries. The World Bank forecasts that poverty’s center of gravity will remain rural in the early decades of the 21st century. Most rural poor people depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood. Poor people in rural or urban areas spend as much as 50-70 percent of their incomes on food.
Low productivity in agriculture is a major cause of poverty, food insecurity, and poor nutrition in low-income developing countries. This is true for urban and rural poor people alike. Low productivity means low incomes for farmers and farm workers, little demand for goods and services produced by poor non-agricultural households in the rural areas, and unemployment and underemployment in urban areas. It also means high unit costs for food, which translate into reduced consumer purchasing power. High food prices are a serious matter for households that spend a large share of their budget on food.
In low-income developing countries, agriculture is the driving force for broad-based economic growth and poverty alleviation. A healthy agricultural economy offers farmers incentives for sound management of the natural resource base upon which their livelihood depends. These relationships are borne out not only by research but also by history in both developing and industrial nations. Productivity increases in European and U.S. agriculture were extremely important to broad-based economic growth during earlier periods of development.
More recently, productivity increases in agriculture, led by agricultural research – the Green Revolution -formed the locomotive of rapid broad-based economic growth and poverty reduction in many Asian countries, including China, Indonesia, South Korea, and India. Recent IFPRI research in four African countries found similar strong linkages between agricultural productivity growth and general economic growth (Delgado and others 1998).
Productivity gains are essential not only for economic growth and poverty alleviation, but to assure that food supplies remain adequate for a growing world population. According to United Nations projections, world population will increase by 25 percent to 7.5 billion in 2020. On average, 73 million people will be added annually. Over 97 percent of the projected growth will take place in developing countries.