British Library investigates world's hunger for science

'GM Crops and Food Security: Curing the World's Growing Pains'
21 January 2010 , 18:00 – 20:30 – British Library, 96 Euston Road, London

Following recent calls by the Government's Chief Scientific advisor for a technological food revolution, the British Library's TalkScience series invites Prof. Rosie Hails, MBE, to lead a discussion on the pros and cons of GM technology.

  • Do GM technologies have a role to play in meeting demand for food by a population of 9 billion in 2050?
  • Are GM crops part of a 'sustainable' solution, or will use of GM technologies exacerbate the negative impacts of agriculture?
  • Do the impacts of GM technologies pale into insignificance beside other fundamental management practices?
  • Has the recent trend of rising food prices and awareness of food security issues altered the public perception of plant biotechnologies?

With concerns over climate change firmly at the top of the international agenda, and global population levels set to rise by 3 billion over the next 40 years, finding a long-term solution for feeding the planet is a growing concern. Last week the Government's Chief Scientist, Professor John Beddington, argued that the world may need to produce up to 50% more food over the next two decades to meet demand but using less and less land, water, fertiliser and fewer pesticides. Calling for the UK science community to drive the high-tech food revolution, Professor Beddington urged researchers to fully explore the opportunities presented by new technologies to avoid a catastrophic food shortage.

Following intense campaigns against the use of GM technology by environmental groups in the 1990s, researchers and policy makers have been reluctant to reopen the GM debate. Yet GM crop technologies specifically designed to improve efficiency and increase yields could potentially offer the key to a more sustainable future. The question is, what elements of these new food technologies should be implemented and how can we ensure safety to both human health and the environment?

A leading authority on insect and pathogen population dynamics and the risk assessment of genetically modified plants, Prof. Rosie Hails, MBE, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, introduces this latest event in the British Library's TalkScience series. Professor Hails will lead an open discussion on GM food technology, investigating the potential, addressing some of the key concerns, and exploring the changing public perceptions and its impact on government policy.

Tickets are £5.00 and include refreshments – available from the British Library website www.bl.uk/science or via the box office on + 44 (0) 1937 546 546.

Notes to Editors

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It provides world-class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. Further information is available on the Library's website at www.bl.uk, which currently receives almost 2 million 'hits' or visits per month.

TalkScience@BL is a quarterly event series based on the cafe scientifique model; our expert speaker introduces the topic which is then debated by an informed audience. The intended audience for this event includes scientists, policy makers, journalists and those working in relevant charities, NGOs and all levels of government. www.bl.uk/science

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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.