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Seeds of change

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Feeding a rapidly growing world in the face of climate change and resource scarcity will be an immense challenge and test for human ingenuity. The effects of climate change on food production around the world are accelerating and could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by the year 2050, according to a grim new study. Rising temperatures, more frequent droughts and extreme weather events will result in crop productivity losses for farmers in many parts of the world.

Agricultural biotechnology is playing an increasingly important role assisting farmers all over the world. A wide ranging and rapidly expanding toolbox of technologies, including controversial and fast evolving techniques, such as genome editing and genetic modification, have produced crops that today are cultivated by about 18 million famers. All in all, genetically modified crops cover about 180 million hectares, or roughly 13 percent of all global cropland.

But to what extent can these technologies also help smallholder farmers – those farming less than five hectares – in developing countries foster more-sustainable and secure food systems?

The early reports on conventional agro-biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops are impressive. GM crops developed by "cutting and pasting" genes from one organism to another are improving livestock vaccines, disease diagnostics and using DNA marker assisted breeding to speed........

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