Ethiopian geneticist defends his country’s decision to approve GMO insect-resistant Bt cotton

CmiA Welcomes Mozambique as Sixth Project Country e

A recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service welcoming the Government of Ethiopia’s (GOE) approval of commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) cotton and confined field trail on GM maize has ignited a public debate over deployment of GM seeds.

[Editor’s note: Grum Gebreyesus is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of Aarhus University in Denmark.]

Proponents of GM argue that adoption can lead to increased yields, decreased insecticide applications, reduced drudgery, and the use of environmentally friendly herbicides.

[A] meta-study published in 2014 estimates a 22% increase in global yield from GM crops while reducing pesticide …. usage by 37% and environmental impact (insecticide and herbicide use) by 18%. For countries with foreign currency bottlenecks like Ethiopia, reduced usage of inputs such as pesticide, insecticide, and herbicide translate to substantial foreign currency savings.

An additional misconception that should be untangled from the ongoing conversation is one that alludes to [Ethiopia’s] approval of a GM crop as a “breakaway” position from an “African consensus” on the ban against GM …. GM crops have been commercially cultivated in Africa since as early as 1998. Commercial cultivation in South Africa begun in 1998 reaching 2.1 million hectares of land covered with biotech maize, including Bt maize, by 2014.

Related article:  Is 'factory farming' an accurate description of modern agriculture?

Burkina Faso and Egypt followed in 2008. Sudan initiated commercial GM cotton in 2012 and by the end of 2018 had 0.2 million hectares of land covered with biotech crops, a significant part of which was Bt cotton. Other African countries were conducting trials on GM crops with approvals for commercial cultivation widely expected soon. Kenya, for instance, had already approved field trials for Bt maize back in 2016. In 2019, the Kenyan government further granted approval for Bt cotton cultivation, in a move welcomed by its agricultural research community.

There appears to be a tendency to equate The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, adopted on 29th January 2000, as a consensus on a collective ban against GMOs. The Protocol is an international agreement which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport, and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology on the precautionary principle (PP). Opponents often invoke the PP to justify a ban on GM, but proponents see these as selective applications of the PP.

Read the original post

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend