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Jeffrey Sachs Discusses Pros of Genetically Modified Foods

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I'm Jeffrey Sachs. I'm Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and I'm also Director of the United Nations' Millenium Project. In September 2000, the leaders of the governments of the United Nations agreed to a set of ambitious but achievable targets to cut extreme poverty. Most parts of the world are achieving economic progress, but for about a billion people you find often a vicious circle of hunger, ill health, massive disease burden, environmental degradation, population pressures and poverty, and billions of people literally are dying of their poverty. They're too poor to get enough to eat, to have access to safe drinking water; they're dying. And what we see is that with very practical approaches of investing in improved agriculture, investing in improved infrastructure, investing in basic health, not only will the quality of life for the poorest of the poor be raised tremendously, not only will millions of people who otherwise will die be able to stay alive, but also they will begin the process of economic development. It will unlock the poverty trap, and allow them to start moving forward. Take any place on the planet that was once extremely poor that is now developed or on its way to becoming a developed economy. You'll find almost inevitably an agricultural revolution at the start of that; a big rise in the productivity in the amount of food grown per hectare of land. There is now promise in the case of many of the biotechnologies in agriculture of fortifying nutrients in places where people are facing massive nutrient deficiencies. Of course traits that protect against local pests and pathogens; now there's the possibility of drought-resistant varieties This will be a phenomenal breakthrough especially for Africa, which is nearly a whole continent afflicted with massive risk and reality of drought. We have a lot of African scientists who are right now saying, "This really fits our need." This technology is so powerful because it brings in one little seed. Everything that's needed; the seed's a great delivery. The great news is those technologies exist. Getting those technologies to the poorest farmers is absolutely one of the keys to making a breakthrough out of extreme poverty. I believe that it's important to find ways to get powerful tools to the poor, but to do it with a vision of investment rather than a vision of simply handout. If we give important technologies to grow more food in foreign places, better seed varieties, better ways to manage soil nutrients, better ways to manage plant pathogens, it's going to create livelihoods, it's going to create income in the villages, it's going to convert what's now sub-subsistence agriculture into commercial farming. And that is going to make this sustainable fundamentally. In other words, we're helping the poorest of the poor to invest in a sustainable future for themselves.

Video Details

Duration: 3 minutes and 39 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 144
Posted by: biotechconversations on Aug 23, 2008

View Jeffrey Sachs' comments on the pros of genetically modified foods in alleviating poverty and hunger in developing countries. The Conversations About Plant Biotechnology Web site offers additional video podcasts with farmers and experts from around the world.

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