The world can only meet its future food needs through innovation, including the use of agricultural biotechnology, a Harvard development specialist said today.

Since their commercial debut in the mid-1990s, genetically designed crops have added about $100 billion to world crop output, avoided massive pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions, spared vast tracts of land, and fed millions of additional people worldwide, said Professor Calestous Juma of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Speaking today to graduates of McGill University, Montreal, where he received an honorary doctorate, Juma asked youth to embrace innovative sciences that alone will make it possible to feed the billions who will swell world population in decades ahead, especially in developing countries. He described the importance of developing more productive or nutritious and insect-resistant crops.

“As the world’s food challenges increase, so must humanity enlarge its toolbox to include genetic modification and other technologies such as satellites for monitoring land resources,” Juma said. “But these techniques are not silver bullets. They must be part of a wider system of innovation that includes improving interactions between academia, government, business and farmers.”

Juma is a national of Kenya who is HKS professor of the practice of international development, and is also director of the Kennedy School’s Science, Technology and Globalization Project.

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