NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Biotechnology: Promise and Politics

October 8, 2003

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.
  • 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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