May 23, 2015
Genetic Engineering For Agriculture Has Bright Future

See this Newsweek article on how genetic modification could end world hunger.

That's probably excessively optimistic as long as sub-Saharan Africa's fertility rate remains above 5. However, in large parts of the world big boosts in farm productivity will reduce the number of acres under plow and probably enable a lot more land to return to natural state. This will reduce the rate of species extinction and make the human race less vulnerable to mega disasters (say a VEI 7 or 8 volcano like Santorini or even bigger).

Genetic engineering of plants will also play a big role in textiles. How a plant that makes silk? Or make cotton better than the best cotton available today.

I also see plant and microorganism genetic engineering as absolutely essential for colonizing Mars. It will not be practical to replicate the vast majority of Earth industry on Mars both due to the cost of shipping the capital equipment and also due a population too small to support many industries. But plants and microorganisms (e.g. yeast) can be genetically engineered to produce assorted pharmaceuticals and specialist chemicals for a variety of applications. This will allow a much smaller civilization to produce a much larger assortment of products.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 May 23 07:37 PM 

Wolf-Dog said at May 23, 2015 10:42 PM:

Genetic engineering will definitely be applied to agriculture (including farm animals) and the sky is the limit, but this must done very carefully. There is an epidemic of food allergies, and for every 100 steps forward we will have to take 99 steps back, so that we can carefully monitor mistakes that can be irreversible.

Engineer-Poet said at May 24, 2015 8:51 AM:

I'm not sure if this article is on the level or if the threat is overblown, but Chipotle going GMO-free may be the start of a stampede regardless:

shiva1008 said at May 24, 2015 9:25 AM:

Oh please, the cause of world hunger, in the few places where it exists, is misappropriation of resources. There is plenty of land to grow food with traditional methods if we did not encourage population growth in areas that can't sustain it.

"World hunger" is being used as an excuse to pollute our food supply. It's the same as the old "for the children" being used to kick poor fathers down, or "because terrorists" being used to expand the surveillance state, etc. They always need a quick two or three word phrase to win over the masses and provide cover for their evil deeds.

And congrats to Chipotle! SWPL causes aren't all bad, it would appear.

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