But in many countries the way research priorities are set can lead to the development of technologies that focus on agricultural productivity at the expense of social and environmental needs.
In 2009 the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) found that the incentives for science to address the issues that matter are weak and that institutional, economic and legal frameworks that combine productivity with the protection and conservation of natural resources are needed.
Butting sustainability and social justice at the heart of our research institutions and the way we do research into agriculture are key to reforming the system. Asking marginal farmers and poor communities how they see the challenges they face would help us work out the best way to solve the problems.
The Food Ethics Council would also welcome a government commitment to discuss all technologies – not just GM – in debates on food and farming in a world of rising hunger and climate change.