Developing nations benefit more from biotechnology than from handouts

Genetically modified (GM) crops have the potential to alleviate malnutrition in developing countries, but the European Union, which mostly opposes GM products, is using its political and economic clout to intimidate poorer countries from growing them.

Participants in a conference on biotechnology sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute said the potential benefits of GM crops for developing countries are enormous:

  • About 50 percent of the increased agricultural productivity in the developing world since 1980 is a result of improved seed technology.

  • "Golden rice," a GM crop that produces carotene, could eliminate Vitamin A deficiency, which kills 500,000 children each year.

  • Some 50 percent of fruits and vegetables in developing countries spoil before they can be eaten, but scientists are developing GM crops that can stay fresher longer.

    Many Europeans, however, view biotechnology with scepticism, and because European development assistance to Third Word countries is twice as large as American assistance, the European Union uses its political clout to promote a "highly precautionary EU-style regulation towards genetically modified crops." And American non-profit organisations are helping:

  • Developing countries willingly forego growing GM crops simply to gain access to the lucrative European market.

  • A lawsuit filed by the Brazilian office of Greenpeace helped block the use of GM soybeans in Brazil.

  • In India, Greenpeace recently succeeded in blocking government approval for planting GM cotton in the northern part of the country.

    Analysts say that GM supporters haven't fully demonstrated the potential of GM crops to the European public. An effective marketing campaign could change minds and increase pressure on the European Union to improve access to GM crops in the countries that need them most.

    Source: Article, The Potential and Politics of Biotechnology, American Enterprise Institute Newsletter, August 2003.

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    For more on Agriculture (Biotechnology)

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 14 October 2003 / 01 December 2009
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