What is GMOs’ role in feeding pets and people?
Increasing numbers of humans and pets means more food scarcity. Can—and should—GMOs help?
The global population, currently at about 7.15 billion people, is forecast to grow to 9.6 billion people by 2050, leading to a 69% higher need for food calories, according to the World Resources Institute. Likewise, the world's pet population is expected to continue to increase, with the fastest growth in places that are also experiencing the most growth in human population or demand for food, such as China and India.
As the number of pets in these developing markets rises, so does the percentage of pets eating commercial petfood-which often competes directly with the human food industry for the same food and ingredient supplies. As food demand increases, those supplies become scarcer.
The good news is that this issue is garnering a lot of attention from agricultural and food organizations worldwide. A recent report from the International Food Policy Research Institute, for example, showed that 11 agricultural innovations may help address food scarcity, at least if used in various combinations. In aggregate, the group of technologies might help increase global crop yields by as much as 67% by 2050 while reducing food prices by nearly half. (See www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/02/25/new-report-emerging-agriculture-technology.)
The report covered three main crops-maize (corn), rice and wheat-and also addressed climate challenges, so it looked at technologies like precision agriculture, no-till farming, drip irrigation, water harvesting, heat- and drought-tolerant plant varieties and organic farming. Noticeably missing was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Some experts see GMOs as a necessary tool to address food scarcity, and they're not even…