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Are genetically modified foods necessary to feed the world?

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There’s no easy answer to this question. Proponents of GM foods point out that the world’s population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, and that humans will need all the technology they can get their hands on to boost crop yields and feed everyone.

Others, like the University of Minnesota’s Jon Foley, have pointed out that there are many other ways to ensure there’s enough food for everyone — from curbing food waste to making sure farmers in poor countries have access to fertilizer and modern agricultural methods.

One related debate here is whether genetic engineering has actually been successful in boosting crop yields. One 2010 study sponsored by biotech firms found that GM technology allowed farmers to grow more food on a given plot of land by making it easier to control weeds. But not everyone agrees. A 2009 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, titled “Failure to Yield,” argued that improved conventional methods have been largely responsible for the increase in corn and soy yields in the United States — not genetic engineering.

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