The last couple of blogs may seem a bit nerdy. Concentrating solar thermal power is not yet a widely used technology and not appropriate for the British climate. I will continue to write about it from time to time because I believe it to have enormous potential as a clean source of power for much of the world. However I will continue to write about a great breadth of other things that show that a better future is possible for humanity. Today I want to write about hunger.
Genetically modified rice is just about to be planted in the Philippines. Enhancing the vitamin A content of the rice can prevent various diseases, but only to the same extent as eating carrots, squash, pumpkin or other vitamin A rich food with the rice has done for millennia. The vast coverage of both pro and anti GM opinions seems to miss a couple of basic points. People are hungry and malnourished because they are poor: overcoming extreme inequality is absolutely essential, without that the introduction of GM crops will make little difference. Today humanity already grows enough food to feed all 7 billion of us, but much gets wasted or fails to get to those who cannot express economic ‘demand’ despite nutritional need. As seems probable global population will reach 9 billion or more by mid-century there is clearly a need to raise agricultural production along with combating inequality. There are many ways in which this can be sustainably done, often with multiple benefits to multiple stakeholders. Compared to some of these lesser known ideas, technologies and land management systems the claims of GM seem to be so much hype. I have written about a number of these inspirational alternatives on this blog over the past couple of years. For example the basket of technologies in use in the Qatar project I blogged about in January has the power to transform deserts into food and energy exporters in a way that makes the claims of GM seem very weak. My next blog will be on the dramatic benefits of good pasture management. It is one of those classic multi-win situations: a carbon negative way to increase productivity and the incomes of poor farmers, counter soil erosion and desertification, increase soil fertility and biodiversity, and it could be argued fosters political inclusivity. What’s not to like.