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CTA. 2003. Agrobiotechnology. Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/01. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/64804
Agrobiotechnology and food security
Unlike medical biotechnology ? where there is very little controversy about the benefits it can bring to human health ? agricultural biotechnology raises high emotions and considerable fear. One reason is that much of the reporting, especially that coming out of Europe, has been biased, poorly informed and, frankly, scary. Stories about ?Frankenstein? foods made from genetically modified organisms that will destroy wildlife and create monster, uncontrollable weeds is typical of the worst type of reporting. On the other hand, those supporters of genetic engineering who claim that GM crops can solve problems of food security are being equally unrealistic. This pack offers a range of views on the subject and will provide, we hope, a good basis for discussion and phone-in programmes as well as interviews with those who can bring a local perspective to the subject. Biotechnology ? what does it actually mean? Although most people nowadays associate biotechnology with genetic engineering (see glossary at the end of this section) it is actually a much older science. Some people argue that even cheese-making and beer-brewing count as biotechnology, and these must surely be among the oldest food processing technologies known to man. More recent innovations in biotechnology include raising disease-free planting material, for crops such as sweet potatoes or cassava, in a laboratory by tissue culture and micropropagation. These aspects of biotechnology are covered in the interviews: Disease-free seeds from biotech, GM food aid ? yes or no? and Can small scale farmers benefit from biotechnology? Another phrase you will hear is ?marker assisted? technology. This is used to help a conventional plant breeder tell much more quickly if a desired characteristic, such as disease resistance, has been successfully transferred. There is very little controversy about the value to farmers of this so-called ?second generation? biotechnology. It means they can grow healthier, more profitable crops and so contribute to greater food security. Where the controversy lies is in the ?third generation? biotechnologies ? those that depend on some form of genetic engineering. Of course each country must choose for itself what it wants out of modern agricultural biotechnology. (see Each nation has a right to decide and A regional stance on GMOs. But it is a decision that is becoming more pressing as the opportunities to make use of GMOs increase. Hand in hand go concerns about safety. A thorough understanding of the possible implications on the environment and biodiversity protection, as well as on agricultural development, trade, economic prosperity and public attitude is essential. And no country should be pressured into establishing piecemeal biosafety procedures simply because an application to import GMOs has been made by powerful interests. ...