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Food for Billions More

Genetically modified food will be necessary to be able to feed a planet of nearly 10 billion people, Bloomberg writes.

By 2050, the human population is expected to reach 9.8 billion, which a new report from the World Resources Institute says emphasizes the need to develop a secure, sustainable food future. "We have to increase yields dramatically, at an even higher rate than we've done historically," Tim Searchinger, lead author of the report, tells Bloomberg. "It's got to be done by growing smarter."

In their report, he and his colleagues developed a list of 22 "menu" items that need to be addressed to be able to feed that many people without taking up more land, increasing emissions, or leading to more poverty. For instance, one item on the list is to increase livestock and pasture productivity — without increasing the amount of land given over to agriculture — while another is to improve crop breeding and yield. That's where, the report says, genetic modifications, especially using CRISPR-based techniques, could be helpful, as it could speed the development of new crops with desired traits.

While critics tell Bloomberg the report is too rosy on the potential for gene modification, others argue that researchers and breeders should try all available tools.