Improved seeds could be the key against the food crisis

Improved seeds could be the key against the food crisis

To feed the 10 billion people who will populate the planet by 2050, an increase of 50% in global food production is needed in the next 32 years, a titanic task in which so-called improved seeds can be key.

These seeds are seen as the hope to take on the challenge, since they guarantee resistance to pests and droughts and provide the nutritional properties necessary for human nutrition.

"As humanity, we face several challenges, both due to population growth and climate change, and for sustainability issues such as the deterioration of soils or the excessive use of water for agriculture," assured Efe Kevin Pixley, director of the resources program of the International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT).

For these reasons, this institution dedicated to food security is trying to alleviate these effects "through technologies applied in new varieties".

The specialist explains that CIMMYT develops new varieties of seeds with nutritional improvement, resistant to pests and high temperatures and excessive rainfall, and even selects corn plants resistant to hail.

He adds that not wasting food and consuming less meat contributes to a large extent to be able to feed the 2 billion new inhabitants who are coming, according to estimates of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO for short). English).

This organization also projects that by 2050 it will be necessary to increase food production by 50%.

In this line, Aureliano Peña Lomelí, professor and researcher of the planting department of the Autonomous University of Chapingo (Uach), explains to Efe that all the varieties of seeds that are used both in traditional and market agriculture are improved varieties; the only thing that changes is the method, who makes the improvement and the purpose for which it does it.

It highlights three methods: selection, hybridization and transgenic. The first one is usually done by farmers and consists in selecting the best individuals, planting them, selecting again and repeating the procedure until a variety with the desired characteristics is obtained.

On the other hand, Pixley specifies that hybridization refers to selecting the best individuals that occur from the cross of two varieties, obtaining another new sample called "hybrid".

"For example, we can take a corn plant that has high yield and cross it with another plant of the same grain that has tolerance to high temperatures to obtain a hybrid variety tolerant to high temperatures and with a high yield," he says.

After these two methods, only the most controversial remains, the transgenic one. It is about the insertion of a gene from an alien species in a different species.

"What you do is take the DNA and graft one or several genes that come from another variety with characteristics that you want to have in the new seed," explains Efe Arturo Silva Hinojosa, leader of the Seed System for Africa and Latin America in the program CIMMYT global corn

Likewise, he adds that "that seed to which genes of other species have been introduced may be a hybrid variety, of selection or Creole".

In the opinion of Peña Lomelí, transgenic varieties are neither good nor bad.

"Of course, its use carries a risk, like everything, but if you solve problems you always have to think about the possibility of using them, in my opinion the biggest risk of transgenics is that they are not ours, it is a technology of transnational companies" , considers.

Although hybrid seeds are more resistant and have a better performance, the price also differs. For example, while a kilo of seed improved by selection of oats or beans costs about 20 pesos (1 dollar), in contrast the same amount in hybrid is worth about 200 pesos (10 dollars).

Therefore, it highlights the importance of strengthening the national budget towards research within national seed companies and institutions in order to reduce the cost of improved seeds and that these have easy access to the majority of farmers in the country.


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