UK Science Advisor says “The food crisis would bite more quickly than climate change”

The British Prime Minister’s incoming science adviser, Professor John Beddington, says that food crisis will take hold before climate change. One of the problems he cites is the rush for ethanol that is pushing up food prices and increasing the clearing of rain forest for growing crops for ethanol, which he says is “profoundly stupid.”

Beddington is proposing plants bred with molecular plant breeding methods, so-called GMOs, as a solution to the estimated doubling in food production estimated that the world will need by 2050.

And while we are on the subject of molecular plant breeding, last week around 300 Brazilian activists from the Landless Workers’ Movement destroyed a plant nursery and a test plot of corn bred with molecular plant breeding owned by Monsanto, while another 400 activists from Via Campesina (the Rural Way) demonstrated at the Swiss embassy against the seed company Syngenta.

While Mexican farmers are smuggling molecular plant breeding seeds in from America to boost their crop yields and decrease food and herbicide costs. Some estimate that as many as 9,000 hectares of the 100,000 hectares of corn grown in the state of Chihuahua is from molecular plant breeding.

At least there are some good news out of the ethanol research world today, as the University of Maryland announced a breakthrough in research on how to create cellulose-based ethanol using bacteria discovered in the Chesapeake Bay a couple of decades ago. If we actually manage to do this, it might break the Gordian knot linking prices of energy and food that we have seen in the last three years.