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About one billion people — or one-sixth of the world's population — live in extreme poverty on less than $1 per day. For these individuals, losing a crop to a drought or a crop-destroying insect can be the difference between life and death. Farming innovations such as genetically modified foods can contribute to poverty alleviation by increasing yields, improving nutrition and generating income among resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
“What we see is that with very practical approaches — of investing in improved agriculture, of investing in improved infrastructure, of investing in basic health — not only will the quality of life for the poorest of the poor be raised tremendously, not only will millions of people who otherwise will die be able to stay alive, but also, they will begin the process of economic development. It will unlock the poverty trap and allow them to start moving forward,” says Jeffrey Sachs, a leading international economic advisor, who for more than 20 years has been involved in identifying challenges to and solutions for poverty and hunger alleviation in developing countries.
Globally, more than 800 million people — 300 million of which are children — go to bed hungry every day. Of these children, more than 90 percent are suffering from long-term malnourishment and micronutrient deficiency. “There's now promise in the case of many of the biotechnologies in agriculture of fortifying nutrients in places where the people are facing massive nutrient deficiencies — of course, traits that protect against local pests and pathogens,” comments Sachs on the pros of genetically modified foods.
As director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and of the United Nations Millennium Project, Sachs is supportive of and promotes policies that expand economic opportunities and well-being throughout the world. Genetically modified foods hold great promise for subsistence farmers in developing countries because the technology is delivered in the seed. For example, genetically modified corn hybrids produce a protein that protects the plant from specific insect pests — eliminating the danger of crop loss due to insect infestations. Research is currently underway to develop plants that can survive drought conditions.