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Farm Debate May Hinder Progress, Goettingen Researcher Qaim Says

Lifting farm productivity may be hindered by debate on how to go about raising yields, said Matin Qaim, professor of international food economics at Germany’s University of Goettingen. Following are comments he made at the “Feeding the World” meeting organized by Economist Conferences in Geneva yesterday.

“We can double agricultural productivity at a global level. We certainly need more money for research and innovation, it’s going to be challenging and it can be done. I do see a big obstacle in the ideological and polarized public debate on the right way to do so.”

“The first big debate is about low versus high external input strategies. We cannot just increase productivity by using more agrochemicals. At the same time we shouldn’t condemn the use of agrochemicals. A moderate increase in agrochemical use can certainly have tremendous benefits.”

“Of course we need better agronomic practices. But agronomic practices cannot substitute for better seeds. There is mounting evidence that small farmers can benefit tremendously and GMO crops can add to poverty reduction.”

“There are 400 million farms smaller than just a few hectares that depend on agriculture. That shouldn’t lead us to romanticize subsistence farming. We should focus on the small-farming sector, overcoming subsistence farming.”

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