While developing new seed varieties is a lucrative proposition for companies, there has been little investment in rebuilding soils, maintaining aquifers or low-cost irrigation, said Halweil.
Profits first, then global good
Halweil suggests that the public sector encourage companies with tax incentives or stockholder pressure to account for their green promises. "There is clearly potential for private-public partnerships that include private firms sharing expertise, genetic material, staff and more in the pursuit of public goods," said Halweil. But "this is the exception rather than the norm right now."
But even those who champion traditional breeding say that partnerships through the industrial agricultural system are the best way to reach the most people, and that private research priorities can go hand in hand with public needs.
Nina Fedoroff, a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University and biotechnology expert, said that private companies possess the capital to develop high-yielding varieties, crucial to ensuring a secure food supply.
"There, we need to focus on regulatory reform," she said, in response to concerns about private interests' focus on profits, not necessarily on the global good.
"Most of the world's food is produced through that system," said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an organization that seeks to promote and ensure plant biodiversity. "We have to be a little bit nuanced."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500