High Food Prices: The Result of Anti-Science Regulatory Attitudes

This is Henry Miller (Hoover Institution):

Food prices worldwide were up by a whopping 25% in 2010, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and February marked the eighth consecutive month of rising global food prices. Within the past two months, food riots helped to trigger the ousting of ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt….

There are several causes of rising prices. [One of them is]  arbitrary and unscientific national and international regulatory barriers – against, in particular, new varieties of plants produced with modern genetic engineering (aka recombinant DNA technology or genetic modification, or GM). Genetic engineering offers plant breeders the tools to make crops do spectacular new things. In more than two dozen countries, farmers are using genetically engineered crop varieties to produce higher yields, with lower inputs and reduced impact on the environment.

But exploiting this advanced technology has been a tough row to hoe. Regulation commonly discriminates specifically against the use of the newest, most precise genetic engineering techniques, subjecting field trials to redundant case by case reviews and markedly inflating R&D costs. A veritable alphabet soup of United Nations’ agencies and programs are prime offenders, perpetuating a regulatory approach that is both unscientific and obstructionist. These public policy failures, in turn, inhibit the adoption and diffusion of new plants that boast a broad spectrum of new high value-added input and output traits.

Comments (5)

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  1. Tom says:

    I knew my bananas were getting expensive.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    Over the next few decades, the world population and demand for food will rise substantially. People in poor countries cannot compete in the marketplace for a share of the world food supply. These are the ones who will primarily be hurt by these policies. To make matters worse, the countries where many of these people live have other food policies that make matters worse. Some countries in Africa only allow their farmers to sell grain to the government at below-market prices. Other countries try to keep food prices artificially low by restricting grain exports. These policies reduce the supply of food.

  3. Virginia says:

    Here is a great interview with Norman Borlaug. I feel lucky to have been alive at the same time as he was. It’s a shame that so many people are trying to outlaw GMO’s.


    (Warning: Has a few curse words from the narrator, especially near the end!)

  4. Sterling Burnett says:

    If you think the regulatory barriers are difficult in the U.S. you should see the hurdles biotech crops face in Europe. I’ve written about that at length here: http://www.ncpathinktank.org/pdfs/st325.pdf

    Another government policy that is contributing substantially to higher food prices is the continuing mandate and subsidies for the creation and use of biofuels — primarily ethanol. The higher the required blended amount in gasoline, the more farmland devoted to corn; corn not for the the table or for animal feed but for the fuel tank. This is a moral and economic travesty. http://www.ncpathinktank.org/pub/ba591

  5. Erik says:

    Putting food in your gas tank is immoral.