Biotechnology: Africa and Asia need a rational debate on GM crops

39By Christopher J. M. Whitty, Monty Jones, Alan Tollervey and Tim Wheeler
Nature – In Europe, scientists, politicians, industry representatives and environmentalists often present genetically modified (GM) crops either as a key part of the solution to world hunger or as a pointless but dramatic threat to health and safety. Neither position is well founded.

Recently, the often shrill debate that has unfolded in some European countries, including France and the United Kingdom, for the past 20 years has been spilling over to developing economies. The government of India, for instance, is considering banning all field trials of GM crops for the next decade — a move that could hurt large- and small-scale farmers by blocking their access to certain crop varieties that have been modified to grow better in local conditions, including types of cotton, soya bean and tomato. Meanwhile, in Kenya, where more than one-quarter of the population is malnourished, the government chose to ban the import of GM food at the end of last year but not GM crop research1. Like similar rulings made in Europe, such decisions seem to be based in part on emotional responses to the technology.

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