Reviving global poverty reduction: What role for genetically modified plants?

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In the early 1960s famine caused 30 million excess deaths in China. India, rurally stagnant and having almost run out of spare cropland, barely escaped famine in 1965-66. New censuses, throughout the developing world, revealed a future of accelerating population growth. But crop research, its institutions, and its results responded. Despite some setbacks and huge regional gaps, global poverty reduction-and tropical food staples yields-advanced more in the 20 years from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s than in the previous century. Most worryingly, since the mid-1980s progress against poverty has slowed down sharply, and so has progress in yields of main food staples in developing countries. This now crawls along at barely half the rate of growth, 1995-2020, of people needing work to afford food. Meanwhile, there has been slow, if any increase in basic yield-enhancing crop research from public funds-while private research has exploded. This has meant that crop research is much less directed towards the food staples of poor people. The most promising potential remedy, based on new science-genetic modification of plants-is accordingly being directed more to the demands of rich farmers and their corporate suppliers than to the needs of poor people: chicken-feed before human food; tobacco before wheat; crops that resist not moisture stress but herbicides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-846
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of International Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2001

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Global Development Institute


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