Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

GM crops show promise for developing world

10.06.2003


Genetically modified crops could help small-scale farmers in developing countries according to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in The use of genetically modified crops in developing countries, a Discussion Paper published today. The Nuffield Council is inviting comments on the draft paper which aims to contribute to ‘GM Nation?’, the public debate organised by the government in the UK during the next six weeks.

In 1999, the Nuffield Council recommended that there was a moral imperative for making GM crops readily and economically available to people in developing countries who want them. “We have reviewed the scientific developments since our last report as well as recent trends in poverty and hunger in developing countries. In the light of this evidence, we have no hesitation in affirming – and expanding – our previous conclusions,” said Dr Sandy Thomas, Director of the Nuffield Council.

“We recognise that we are discussing only part of a much larger picture,” continued Dr Thomas. Food security and the reduction of poverty in developing countries are extremely complex issues. “We do not claim that GM crops will eliminate the need for economic, political or social change, or that they will feed the world. However, we do believe that GM technology could make a useful contribution, in appropriate circumstances, to improving agriculture and the livelihood of poor farmers in developing countries.”



The impact of European Union policy

The draft considers developments in regulation and trade and concludes that European agricultural policy is likely to restrict severely the freedom of choice of farmers in developing countries. Many developing countries do not have the necessary infrastructure to meet strict EU requirements for labelling and traceability of GM crops. Additionally, there is concern that even planting GM crops only for domestic use might jeopardise an export market for non-GM crops. “We believe EU regulators have not paid enough attention to the impact of EU regulations on agriculture in developing countries,” and we recommend that the UK government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should monitor this closely,” said Dr Thomas.

European scepticism may also deter people in developing countries from adopting GM crops, particularly when the risks of GM crops are exaggerated. “The current evidence from safety assessments of GM crops does not suggest any significant risk to people who eat them, and we believe it is unhelpful to suggest otherwise,” said Professor Derek Burke, a member of the Working Group.

Food Aid

Last year, two million people in Zambia were threatened with starvation. However, the Zambian government refused food aid donations from the US because the maize was genetically modified. The Nuffield Council discusses issues behind this controversy and recommends that developing countries must be given a genuine choice between GM and non-GM food aid. When developing countries prefer to receive non-GM food aid, the World Food Programme and other food aid organisations should purchase such grain, wherever possible.

Golden Rice

Scientists claim that Golden Rice, modified to produce ß-carotene, could help prevent vitamin A deficiency in Asia, but opponents question whether it would actually achieve this aim. The Nuffield Council recommends that it is essential to continue research to establish how effective the approach might be. Golden Rice could make a valuable contribution where other sources of vitamin A are not easily available, but it should be compared with alternative methods of improving micronutrients in the diet, for example providing vitamin supplements through public health programmes.

Case by case assessment

The possible costs, benefits and risks associated with particular GM crops can only be assessed on a case by case basis. “It is important not to generalise,” said Professor Michael Lipton, a member of the Working Group. “However GM crops do, in some cases, have considerable potential to increase crop yields. There is an ethical obligation to explore these benefits responsibly.”

Small-scale farmers in China and South Africa are already benefiting from GM cotton, modified to resist the cotton bollworm. Another example cited is research to genetically modify bananas to resist the Black Sigatoka fungus. Untreated, this fungus can reduce banana yields by as much as 70%. Currently, farmers spend one quarter of the production costs on fungicides, and farm workers may risk their health by applying the spray, up to 40 times per year. A GM banana, resistant to the fungus, could eliminate these problems, reducing the amount of fungicide required and, at the same time, increasing yields.

Genetic modification could also be used to address specific agricultural problems, such as drought and salty soils, where other methods of plant breeding have not proved successful. However, much GM research currently serves the interests of large-scale farmers in developed countries. There is also concern that only a few commercial companies control most of the seeds, chemicals and research technology. The Nuffield Council recommends that additional resources should be committed by governments and the EC to fund a major expansion of GM-related research relevant to the needs of small-scale farmers in developing countries.

The Council is inviting views on the draft version of the Discussion Paper, by 8 August 2003. “We look forward to hearing comments from members of the public, stakeholders and experts. We would particularly welcome comments from people in developing countries,” concluded Dr Thomas.

For further information, please contact: Nicola Perrin, +44 (0)20 7681 9627 or 07768 683 589, nperrin@nuffieldfoundation.org

Nicola Perrin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

nachricht Ecological intensification of agriculture
09.09.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

Im Focus: Launch of New Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing

At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.

In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...

Im Focus: New laser joining technologies at ‘K 2016’ trade fair

Every three years, the plastics industry gathers at K, the international trade fair for plastics and rubber in Düsseldorf. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will also be attending again and presenting many innovative technologies, such as for joining plastics and metals using ultrashort pulse lasers. From October 19 to 26, you can find the Fraunhofer ILT at the joint Fraunhofer booth SC01 in Hall 7.

K is the world’s largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. As in previous years, the organizers are expecting 3,000 exhibitors and more than...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

ICPE in Graz for the seventh time

20.09.2016 | Event News

Using mathematical models to understand our brain

16.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stronger turbine blades with molybdenum silicides

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Scientists Find Twisting 3-D Raceway for Electrons in Nanoscale Crystal Slices

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Lowering the Heat Makes New Materials Possible While Saving Energy

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>