Boosting Food Production

While the UN’s world food summit was underway in Rome—see the Economist for a succinctly pessimistic take on what it accomplished—Monsanto, the dominant agricultural biotech company, announced a headline-stealing goal: The company aims to double corn, soybean, and cotton yields by 2030. (It’ll also donate $10 million for research into improving the yields of wheat and rice, crops it doesn’t concentrate on.)

On the first day of the food summit, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the UN, had already called for “world farm production to rise by 50 per cent by 2030.” Needless to say, it seems highly unlikely that Monsanto’s seeds alone can come anywhere close to that goal—not that anyone will remember that in 2030. Here’s the reaction of a soybean genetics expert at the University of Nebraska to Monsanto’s plan: “The hype-to-reality ratio of that one is essentially infinity. Seeing an exponential change in the yield curve is unlikely.”

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