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Can GM crops help to feed the world?

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The reasons why food security has become such a key issue in the international agenda are numerous – demand exceeding supply, land use degradation, and sporadic price increases leading to social unrest. Currently the world has more than enough food, but some 1 billion people still go hungry. Food redistribution is only part of the solution. Appropriate and intermediate technologies all have their place, and conventional plant breeding remains as great an influence as it has for hundreds of years. The advent of molecular plant breeding throws up core questions about what it is that scientists seek to do when building new genetic traits into seeds. Even though they can improve yield and disease resistance, and provide health promoting properties, solutions have provoked both hopes and fears. Do they result in a fundamentally altered relationship of humankind to nature?

Professor Sir Brian Heap is Research Associate, Centre for Development Studies, University of Cambridge, Honorary Professor University of Nottingham, and former Master of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, and Project Leader, Biosciences for farming in Africa. As a biological scientist with doctorates from Nottingham and Cambridge, he published extensively on endocrine physiology, reproductive biology and biotechnology, and was Director of Research at the Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research (Babraham, Cambridge and Roslin, Edinburgh) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, he held posts as Foreign Secretary, Vice-President, and editor of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B.

This talk is part of the Food Futures in the World series.

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