BBC debate: Is GMO opposition grounded in science?


Should we embrace technology that could help feed the world, or are concerns about the impact of global agribusiness and industrial food production justified?

Four experts spoke to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme.

Pamela Ronald: Humans have modified crops for thousands of years

Pamela Ronald runs the Lab for Crop Genetics Innovation at the University of California, Davis. Her team won an award for its decade-long work to isolate the gene that makes rice tolerant to floods.

After 40 years of commercial use in medicine, cheeses, wine and plants – and after over 20 years of careful study and rigorous peer review by thousands of independent scientists not funded by major corporations – every major scientific organisation in the world has concluded that the genetically-engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat. I wouldn’t use the word ‘irrational’ [to describe opposition to GM], I would say it’s ‘non-science based’.”

David Ropeik: We are not rational about risk

Risk perception consultant David Ropeik has worked with governments and GM producers.

I would disabuse people of proposing that we be rational about this. We think we’re rational, objective, post-enlightenment ‘we can figure everything out with science’ thinkers. What cognitive science has taught us over the last 50 years is no, we’re mostly instinctive animals whose job is to survive. Our brain is hard-wired to feel first and think second.

Haidee Swanby: GM technology is dangerous for small farmers

Haidee Swanby works for the African Centre for Biodiversity based in South Africa, which opposes GM crops. South Africa introduced its first GM crop, maize, in the late 1990s.

From the beginning, we were very concerned about how much control the biotech industry had in developing our legal frameworks, and how close they were to our government.

Calestous Juma: GM is an important tool

Calestous Juma directs the Harvard-based Agricultural Innovation in Africa project, which is funded by the Gates Foundation and supports the use of GM crops.

By defining this as a product of large corporations, you end up undermining local enterprises who have no connection whatsoever with large corporations. In fact the bulk of the biotech research that’s carried out in African countries is funded by local governments and conducted by local researchers.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Is opposition to genetically modified food irrational?