Perceptions on the Future of Biotechnology

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Presentation delivered by Dr. Robert L. Paarlberg (Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College, USA) at Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security. March 25 - 28, 2014, Ciudad Obregon, Mexico.
http://www.borlaug100.org

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Perceptions on the Future of Biotechnology

  1. 1. PERCEPTIONS ON THE FUTURE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY ROBERT PAARLBERG MARCH 2014 Rpaarlberg@Wellesley.edu
  2. 2. WHY WERE GREEN REVOLUTION FOOD CROPS ADOPTED….. WHILE GMO FOOD CROPS ARE NOW BEING BLOCKED?
  3. 3. GMO FOOD CROPS CURRENTLY BLOCKED • GMO Rice: No commercial planting in any country • GMO Wheat: No commercial planting in any country • GMO Potato: No commercial planting in any country • GMO White Maize: Commercial planting only in Republic of South Africa • GMO Sugar beet: Commercial planting only in USA and Canada • GMO Fruits: Only papaya, and only in United States and PRC • GMO Vegetables: Only summer squash and sweet corn in United States, plus eggplant in Bangladesh • GMO food animals or GMO fish: Not commercialized in any country
  4. 4. POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS • Are GMOs less safe? • Restrictive intellectual property claims? • GMOs are more difficult for farmers to use? • Less urgent food needs today? • Higher regulatory barriers for GMOs?
  5. 5. Organizations on record saying “No new risks to human health or the environment from GMOs approved by regulators so far.” •Research Directorate General of EU (2001) •French Academy of Sciences (2002) •French Academy of Medicine (2002) •UK Royal Society (2003) •British Medical Association (2004) •German Academies of Science and Humanities (2004) •OECD (2000) •Director-General of World Health Organization (2002) •International Council for Science (ICSU) (2003) •Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (2004)
  6. 6. 2010 REPORT FROM EU COMMISSION DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR RESEARCH: "The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than, for example, conventional plant breeding technologies."
  7. 7. RESTRICTIVE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY CLAIMS?
  8. 8. GMOS MORE DIFFICULT FOR FARMERS TO USE? Country GMO crop First year legal to plant Percent of total crop in 2011 India Cotton 2002 88 percent Brazil Soybean 2003 83 percent Burkina Faso Cotton 2008 58 percent Philippines Yellow maize 2003 64 percent R. of South Africa White maize 2001 72 percent China Papaya 2006 99 percent
  9. 9. ARE FOOD CONSUMPTION NEEDS LESS URGENT? Prevalence of underweight in children 0-59 months old 5th Report World Nutrition Situation , 2004
  10. 10. THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE: STRONG RICH COUNTRY OPPOSITION TO GMOS • From food consumers • From environmental activists • From activist NGOs working through the United Nations system
  11. 11. 2000 Cartagena Protocol
  12. 12. THE CRITICAL OUTCOME: HIGHER REGULATORY BARRIERS FOR GMOS • Developing countries are expected to enact new biosafety laws and create new biosafety committees, prior to planting any GMOs • National biosafety committees must approve on a case by case basis all research on GMOs, the environmental release of GMOs, and the commercialization of GMOs. • A “precautionary” regulatory standard can block environmental release or commercial use even without any evidence of new risks • Even if approval for a crop is granted, mandatory labeling, tracing, and strict liability can block uptake.
  13. 13. FOOD EMERGENCIES FAIL TO TURN THE TIDE ZAMBIA, 2002
  14. 14. ONE POSSIBLE PREDICTION FOR GMOS OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS • GMO cotton will be grown on every continent, and used everywhere. • GMO feed crops will be used everywhere, but still grown primarily in the Western Hemisphere • Food staple crops (wheat, rice, potato) may still not be grown anywhere in GMO form.
  15. 15. Summary: Green Rev and Gene Rev Differences Green Revolution era GMO era Global hunger fears acute? Yes No Trusted institutions in the lead? Yes No Opposition from international NGOs No Yes
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