Crop Biotechnology Impact on Developing Countries Part 1

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According to an annual report from PG Economics, farmers in developing countries can benefit from GMO crops, particularly corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola. The report–GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2013–noted that global plantings grew to a record 416 million shares in 2013. Since 1996, the net economic benefit of crop biotechnology at the farm level has been $133.5 billion.

Graham Brookes, co-author of the report and director of PG Economics, said, “GM technology has continued to provide more productive agriculture, higher incomes to farmers and a better environment with citizens. A majority of these benefits continue to go to farmers and rural communities in developing countries.”

We asked Zintro experts to respond to the report. This post is the first of two posts featuring those responses.

Zintro expert Marcelo Huarte has experience with multinational groups such as GILB and World Potato Congress. He participated on GMO discussions with the G-8 and Workshop on Transgenic Potatoes for the benefit of resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

“GMO technology, as many others (i.g. vaccines in the XIX century) is not good or bad per se,” explains Huarte. “Reluctance to adopt new technologies is embedded in human nature. Political, as well as religious issues, have been an usual hurdle to overcome. No other agricultural technology has been worse marketed as GMO. GMO is related to large multinational companies and patent issues that oblige low-income farmers to them with the negative political impact that comes with it.

Genes from the same species can be introduced with the same technology without the risks of alien genes. Agrochemicals receive a much milder opposition than GMOs although they might have larger impacts on health and environment. Most GMOs need fewer agrochemicals for their cultivation. Health risks due to the presence of antibiotics in transformed plants have been largely overcome and little effort has been done on the public domain to free GMO technology from the political issues presented above.”

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