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Last updated at 18:32 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

UK crop research


28 October 2009

Britain's academy of sciences, The Royal Society, is warning that the world will have to increase food production by 50% by 2050. It has recently published a report calling on the UK government to spend more than $3bn on crop research.

Keith Adams

A market in India

A food market in India


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The Royal Society says that by the middle of the century the global population may reach 9 billion. And feeding those extra mouths is a major challenge for the planet, compounded by the spectre of global warming.

Professor David Baulcombe of Cambridge University, who led the research, says a billion people are already malnourished. Professor Baulcombe says the money the government should plough into crop science is needed immediately. If we wait ten years, he says, it may be too late. The genetic manipulation he refers to could produce crop strains resistant to disease, drought and salinity.

But the issue of genetically modified crops is still something of a hot potato, despite the technology being already used by millions of farmers. Environmental groups say the usefulness of GM crops has not been proven, and the threat they pose by letting altered genes spread into other plants is significant.

Keith Adams, BBC News, London


Click to hear the vocabulary:


the global population

the number of people in the world

feeding those extra mouths is a major challenge

making sure the increased population has enough food is a very difficult task

compounded by the spectre

combined with and made worse by the threat


not getting enough food, or not getting the food they need

plough into

steadily invest in/allocate to

crop science

research into ways of improving plants used for food (e.g. through genetic manipulation, or modification - see below)

resistant to

that are not affected by (something that is considered negative)

genetically modified (GM)

when the genes of plants are altered by people, not nature, in order to change the way they grow or produce crops

something of a hot potato

a sensitive or controversial issue that is not easy to deal with (a hot potato is a set colloquial expression)

spread into

get inside, contaminate

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