Brussels, 11 Jun 2003
Genetically modified (GM) crops have the potential to improve agricultural processes, increase food security and reduce poverty in developing world, according to two recently published reports.
The first study, produced for the International Council for Science (ICSU), is entitled 'new genetics, food and agriculture: scientific discoveries - social dilemmas'. It examines question relating to GM crops such as who needs them and will they affect trade.
The report concludes that 'the broad range of modern genetics applications in agriculture could contribute more toward improving the efficiency and sustainability of agriculture in emerging economies.'
'Genetically modified crops also offer promise to contribute more toward both food security and poverty reduction,' the report continues, and it suggests that public-private partnerships are the most likely source of new varieties of crops aimed at addressing problems in the developing world.
The second study is a draft discussion paper produced by the UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and its purpose is to assess the potential risks and benefits associated with the use of GM crops in developing countries.
The main findings of the report state: '[T]he use of GM crops can, in some circumstances, have considerable potential to increase yields of crops, thereby improving agricultural practice and the livelihood of poor people in developing countries.'
The Nuffield Council feels there is 'an ethical obligation to explore these benefits responsibly' and argues that 'there is not enough evidence of actual or potential harm to justify a moratorium on either research, field trials, or the controlled release of GM crops into the environment at this stage'.
'We therefore affirm the recommendation [...] that genuinely additional resources be committed by governments, the European Commission and others, to fund a major expansion of public GM related research into tropical and sub tropical staple foods, suitable for the needs of small-scale farmers,' concludes the Nuffield Council report.