ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

23 August 2002


Good to see Prof Stott for once admitting (even if only in the title!) that genetic engineering is not a panacea. The Stott hyperbole normally knows no such moderation. For, as he writes elsewhere, "We are truly standing on a great peak and a new country lies at our feet".

In the past the good professor hasn't hesitated to describe GE as both "an advance vital for human development" and "essential for human survival", not to mention the "finest of all human adaptations".

Unsurprisingly, Peter Montague, director of the Environmental Research Foundation, says of Stott:

"It is evident that Professor Stott has abandoned his role as a serious scholar and has become a cheerleader for the biotech industry."

For the low down on Stott's rot:

1. GM has all the ingredients to add to global hunger - Sharma
2. GM is not a panacea, just an everyday essential

for the low down on Stott:



August 22, 2002
The Guardian [via Agnet]

Devinder Sharma, a New Delhi-based food and trade policy analyst, author, and a political commentator, writes that  if the food currently available were to be evenly and equitably distributed among the 6.4 billion people on the planet, there would still be a surplus left for 800 million people. Sharma says that to say that biotechnology will provide those who are hungry and malnourished with "novel foods" and "functional foods", such as golden rice fortified with micro-nutrients such as vitamin A, is to mock at the inability of the poor and hungry to access two square meals a day. In India, for instance, the 12 million malnourished people deficient in vitamin A primarily live in the hunger belt. These are the people who produce enough food but cannot buy the food they grow. Given a choice, all that these children of the lesser god need is simple food. And if they had enough food, they wouldn't have been malnourished.

Far away in Africa, Ethiopia, often dubbed a "hopeless case", has also recently demonstrated how a combination of people-centric and natural resource-based policies can bring back self-sufficiency in food. It is the emerging free trade paradigm, dictated more by the biotechnology industry and the food giants, that aims to destroy the capability of the developing countries to produce enough food. Biotechnology, with tailor-made rules for foreign direct investment, profit-oriented research and a stricter intellectual property regime, will drive out farmers from their meagre land holdings and thereby take food away from the reach of the poor and needy. Biotechnology has all the ingre-dients to add to global hunger.



August 22, 2002
The Guardian [via Agnet]

Philip Stott,  professor emeritus of biogeography at the University of London, writes that although GM crops have a vital role to play in developing countries, it is important to stress that they are only one element in a complex package needed to defeat food insecurity and world hunger. GM crops can never solve the problems of the political maldistribution of food resources and the inequalities of trade at any one cross section in time. Their purpose is to enhance our ability to increase food production relative to population growth, to cope with constant climate change, to continue to outpace pests and diseases, to provide environmental improvements, and to extend crops into ecologically challenging areas, such as those with saline soils. GM crops should also be used with 'organic' agriculture to overcome problems of yield, extensification into forests, disease resistance, and product life. GM crops will further play a role in the delivery of medicines, vaccines, and improved nutrition. In 2001, more than three-quarters of the 5.5 million farmers growing GM crops were small-scale farmers in the developing world. In China, the average farm size for GM cotton is less than 1 hectare (2.47 acres). Environmental benefits have already arisen, with pesticide applications reduced by some 13 sprayings per hectare per season and with production costs down 28%. The decline in the use of toxic pesticides, such as organophosphates, is as high as 80%.

This is a moral issue. To deny GM technology to the developing world would be unforgivable; to play some role in its safe development, a privilege for the Earth summit 2002.

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