Hope Not Hype: The Future of Agriculture Guided by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development

By Jack Heinemann

Publisher: TWN (ISBN: 978-983-2729-81-5)

Year: 2009   No.of pages: 176


Can we feed the world in the year 2050?  If we can, will it be at the price of more distant futures of food insecurity? 21st-century Earth is still trying to find a way to feed its people. Despite global food surpluses, we have malnutrition, hunger and starvation. We also have mass obesity in the same societies. Both of these phenomena are a symptom of the same central problem: a dominating single agriculture coming from industrialized countries responding to perverse and artificial market signals. It neither produces sustainable surpluses of balanced and tasty diets nor does it use food production to increase social and economic equity, increase the food security of the poorest, and pamper the planet back into health.

This book is about a revolution in agriculture envisioned by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a five-year multi-million-dollar research exercise supervised by the United Nations and World Bank that charts sustainable solutions. The solutions are of course not purely technological, but technology will be a part of the solution.

Which technology? Whose technology?

Hope Not Hype is written for people who farm, but especially for people who eat. It takes a hard look at traditional, modern (e.g., genetic engineering) and emerging (e.g., agroecological) biotechnologies and sorts them on the basis of delivering food without undermining the capacity to make more food. It cuts through the endless promises made by agrochemical corporations that leverage the public and private investment in agriculture innovation. Here the case is made for the right biotechnology rather than the “one size fits all” biotechnology on offer. This book provides governments and their citizens with the sound science in plain language to articulate their case for an agriculture of their own – one that works for them.


JACK HEINEMANN is a professor of genetics and molecular biology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand and is a senior adjunct professor of gene ecology at GenØk – Centre for Biosafety in Tromsø, Norway. Jack was previously a staff fellow at the US National Institutes of Health. He received his BSc with honours in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Oregon.

Jack received the ICAAC Young Investigator Award from the American Society for Microbiology in 1993 and was the recipient of the New Zealand Association of Scientists Research Medal in 2002. He was appointed to the UN Roster of Biosafety Experts in 2005. Jack has published broadly in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, authored invited works for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and IAASTD, and has advised various government agencies in several countries.


Abbreviations and terminology               



Chapter One: Précis for policy-makers          

            Is biotechnology the way to improve agriculture?  

            Which biotechnology?     

            Evaluating the benefits of genetic engineering       

            Alternatives to modern biotechnology



Chapter Two: Setting the scene       

            Why agriculture is special         


            Genetic engineering      



Chapter Three: Defining biotechnology       


Chapter Four: Presence        

            Unintended risks to human health caused by presence    

            Presence is necessary and sufficient for liability 


Chapter Five: Yield   

            GM crops not designed to increase yield

            Do GM crops produce more food or revenue?    



Chapter Six: Pesticides         

            Does genetic engineering reduce use of pesticides?        

            Human health and environmental risks from insecticidal crops     

            Human health and environmental risks from herbicide-tolerant crops        



Chapter Seven: Biotechnologies for sustainable cultures     

            Industrial agriculture encourages a false sense of simplicity           

            Target: sustainability     

            Target: increased yield and disease resistance      


Chapter Eight: Growing more food on less (intellectual) property    

            Gene vs. Green Revolutions      

            Intellectual property rights are consolidating the seed industry      

            Patent and patent-like protections undermine agricultural knowledge, science and technology        

            Patent and patent-like protections threaten long-term oversight and innovation      

            Biosafety vs. IPR         





Appendix One: What is a GMO?        

Appendix Two: The indirect benefits of genetic engineering are not sustainable  

Appendix Three: Potential human health risks from Bt plants   

Appendix Four: Legal remedies: Case studies  


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