Biotech by the Numbers: 7 Billion, 3 Billion, and 150

Farmer Gene

This week we’ve seen a lot of big numbers in the news headlines:  7 Billion, 3 Billion, and 150.  What is special about these numbers?  These three numbers actually tell a very compelling story about the importance of agricultural biotechnology.

On Sunday, October 30, our world’s seventh billion person was born.  In the UK newspapers the Telegraph and the Independent, science editor Michael Hanlon explains the challenges facing “baby seven billion,” Manila’s Danica May Camacho.

“Since 1880, the world population has doubled and doubled again, and this has changed the face of the planet,” writes Hanlon.  “I know that to stand a chance of keeping an extra two or three billion people fed, watered and sheltered in the decades ahead without completely ruining our planet, we are going to have to abandon our bizarre, decadent aversion to ‘risky’ new technologies…Why do we reject the technology that would put food on the plates of the poorest?”

On Friday, November 4, a farmer somewhere in the world – probably in South America where Spring planting has begun – made agricultural history by planting the world’s 3 billionth acre of biotech crops.

Brazilian farmer Richard Franke Dijkstra, a member of the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Network, authored an editorial this week commemorating this milestone.

“How big is 3 billion acres?  It’s bigger than the Amazon rainforest. It’s bigger than all of Brazil. It’s big enough to say with absolute certainty that biotechnology is now a thoroughly conventional variety of agriculture.  We often talk about biotechnology as a part of our future, but let’s also recognize that it has become an indelible feature of our present because 3 billion acres of it are now a part of our past.”

Also this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  President Abraham Lincoln signed a law establishing the Agriculture Department in 1862.

Lincoln recognized the potential of America’s farmers to find new ways to cultivate the land and that with advances in research and technology.  It is that investment in research and technology – including better and more modern farming practices and use of biotechnology and better seeds – that has made American farmers the most productive in the world.

To provide for seven billion people, the world will need a lot more than three billion acres of biotech crops, but it’s a good start.  As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the USDA, let’s remember that our farmers’ willingness to adapt to technology and modern innovation is what has sustained this planet, and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

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2 Responses to Biotech by the Numbers: 7 Billion, 3 Billion, and 150

  1. respected madam, i am doing agricultural biotechnology from punjab agriculture university and now i am in undergraduate programme and i am in 3 year just one year left then my degree will be finished then for ms in agri biotech i want to come to usa because as we know that 90 percent people are busy in other works like someone is doin mbbs someone in engineer and only 5 percent people are there who r producing food for whole world i want to be the part of that five percent i want to open a agri biotech industry the first agi biotech industry in punjab for this i want to do ms in usa because i want some new experiencce i want your guidelines madam thanks

  2. Neil Watson says:

    Truth is good. Half truths are not necessarily so. There should be stringent acid tests conducted by truly objective peer reviewers evaluating the pros and cons of all ag technologies, including the biotechnologies. We should strive to stop destroying soils, brain malnourishment from producing nutrient sparse foods, biodiversities, genetic pollution, the powerful ag. interests preying upon family farmers. Ammonia should be fed directly to machines rather than to plantations of annual energy crops. Karen Batra you are only addressing the tip of the iceberg.

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