Genetic Engineering of Annual Crops to Perennials - Key to Food Security?

The last several decades have witnessed a remarkable increase in crop yields — doubling major grain crops since the 1950s. But a significant part of the world still suffers from malnutrition, and these gains in grains and other crops probably won’t be enough to feed a growing global population.

As reported in an article published by the Genetic Literacy Project on March 15, 2019, the genetic engineering of annual crops to perennial crops may provide a key answer towards the world's growing food scarcity; allowing the expansion of the world's food supply to meet the needs of the coming generations. The switch may also have a large impact on the pricing of seed crops as a switch from annual crops to perennial crops would lead to a natural decrease in demand for seed - which is a key contributing factor towards food scarcity in many developing, and undeveloped regions of the world.

One example, the Kingdom of eSwatini, is a small impoverished nation nestled between Mozambique and South Africa and struggles to meet their own food requirements while importing 99% of food products from both South Africa and Mozambique. While commercial farms do exist, there are no seed companies operating within the tiny nation which necessitates the importation of seed from neighboring South Africa and Mozambique. This leads to the price of the required seed to often be double or triple what it might cost for a farm operator in neighboring countries, and if one is able to purchase the seed, the supply of seed crops is often either constrained or completely depleted by the time it is available for purchase to eSwatini farmers. Hence, the small nation becomes locked into food dependence on it's neighbors.

In fact, due to a critical shortage of skilled farm operators and workers within the Republic of South Africa, Africa's second largest economy also imports most of its food products from neighboring countries, Europe and the United States. Properly managed perennial crops could have a very large impact on securing the food supply to South Africa, and it's neighboring countries.

No doubt, the development of genetically engineered perennial crops within the realms of corn, soybeans and wheat would also have a major impact on the business of commercial seed companies within the United States, Europe and South America. Companies such as Pioneer, Dow / Dupon and BASF would need to diversify their product offerings to compensate for the loss of revenue from sales of annual crop seed due to the development of perennial crop seed along the same lines.

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