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See Inside September 2007

Sowing a Gene Revolution

A new green revolution based on genetically modified crops can help reduce poverty and hungerbut only if formidable institutional challenges are met

The number of hungry people in the world remains stubbornly high. In 1960 roughly one billion people were undernourished; tonight about 800 million still will go to bed hungry. Yet the progress in filling empty bellies has been much more substantial than those two numbers might suggest, because today around 5.6 billion people are fed adequately, compared with only two billion half a century ago.

Modern agricultural technology has been the key to these dramatic gains. The development and distribution of high-yield seeds and the inputs (fertilizers and irrigation) to make them grow to their full potential drove the green revolution of the 20th century. Conventional methods of selective breeding and the crossing of different varieties produced hybrids with desirable characteristics that increased farm productivity and incomes and brought down food prices.

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