(NaturalNews) The agribusiness strategy of aggressively promoting genetically modified (GM) and highly hybridized seeds are placing world food security at risk, according to studies conducted by researchers from the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) and presented at the World Seed Conference in Rome.
Researchers are increasingly warning that global warming and the ensuing worldwide ecological disruption may render many popular seed varieties unsuitable. A recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that temperature rises from global warming are likely to lead to shortages in corn and soy, two of the world's most important food crops.
"Where farming communities have been able to maintain their traditional varieties, they are already using them to cope with the impacts of climate change," said IIED project leader Krystyna Swiderska. "But more commonly, these varieties are being replaced by a smaller range of 'modern' seeds that are heavily promoted by corporations and subsidized by governments. These seeds have less genetic diversity yet need more inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers and more natural resources such as land and water."
Traditionally, farmers have saved seeds from a number of different varieties of each crop, which has made them able to adapt more readily to crises like drought or pestilence. But with farmers abandoning traditional varieties for higher yielding but genetically homogenous corporate varieties, the genetic diversity that protects the world's food supply from disaster could be lost.
According to the IIED, global agriculture needs to adopt a model similar to the Participatory Plant Breeding program in southwest China, in which small farmers and seed breeders are cooperating to develop new crop varieties and share the profits.
"Traditional seed varieties are critical to help Chinese farmers adapt to climate change," said Jingsong Li of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy. "At the same time, this biological diversity is under threat from problems such as drought, floods, pests and diseases, which climate change may promote. For these reasons, farmers are keen to improve their varieties through Participatory Plant Breeding."