National Geographic : 2009 Jun
• increased rice yields alone with the existence of 700 million more people on the planet. Many crop scientists and farmers believe the solution to our current food crisis lies in a second green revolution, based largely on our newfound knowledge of the gene. Plant breeders now know the sequence of nearly all of the 50,000 or so genes in corn and soybean plants and are using that knowledge in ways that were unimaginable only four or ve years ago, says Robert Fraley, chief technology officer for the agricultural giant Monsanto. Fraley is convinced that genetic modi cation, which allows breeders to bolster crops with bene cial traits from other species, will lead to new varieties with higher yields, reduced fertilizer needs, and drought tolerance--- the holy grail for the past decade. He believes biotech will make it possible to double yields of Monsanto s core crops of corn, cotton, and soy- beans by 2030. "We re now poised to see proba- bly the greatest period of fundamental scienti c advance in the history of agriculture." AFRICA IS THE CONTINENT where Homo sapiens was born, and with its worn-out soils, tful rain, and rising population, it could very well o er a glimpse of our species future. For numerous reasons---lack of infrastructure, corruption, inaccessible markets---the green revolution never made it here. Agricultural production per capita actually declined in sub-Saharan Africa between 1970 and 2000, while the population soared, leaving an average ten-million-ton annual food de cit. It s now home to more than a quarter of the world s hungriest people. Tiny, landlocked Malawi, dubbed the "warm heart of Africa" by a hopeful tourism industry, is also in the hungry heart of Africa, a poster child for the continent s agricultural ills. Living in one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in Africa, the majority of Malawians are corn farmers who eke out a living on less than two dollars a day. In 2005 the rains failed once again in Malawi, and more than a third of its population of 13 million required food aid to Qi Nianhua, a Guanzhang noodlemaker, carefully separates gua mian, or hanging noodles, a staple in China's Henan Province that has become more expensive as wheat prices have climbed. The drought in China's wheat belt could drive costs even higher.