Food Ethics Council – How do we solve those problems?

A comment from The Food Ethics Council

As pro and anti GM crop campaigners regroup, the Food Ethics Council maintains that the debate about whether or not GM food will feed the world is a red herring.

The world needs to move on from the decade-old debate about GM. It’s not enough to ask “do we need GM”, or “could GM help?” Those are leading questions and the answer we get depends on who is asking. Better, first, to be sure what problems we’re trying to solve by giving the marginal farmers and poor communities we say we’re helping a chance to explain how they see the challenges they face. Then, with them, we can ask an open question: “how can we solve those problems?”

That sounds simple enough, but doing it right depends on some hefty institutional changes. The British government should –

1/ Instigate reform of our research bodies, building open discussion of the needs of producers, consumers and the environment into the way research is commissioned.

2/ Argue for the overhaul of European regulatory systems for GM foods, embedding public involvement in the process to ensure trust and transparency.

3/ Make a commitment to discuss all technologies – not just GM – in the debate on the future of food and farming in a world of rising hunger and climate change.

The UK is a signatory to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). IAASTD finds that the incentives for science to address the issues that matter are weak, and that many OECD members have put barriers in place to stop the consideration of social and environmental needs when trying to meet agricultural production goals. It calls for institutional, economic and legal frameworks that combine productivity with the protection and conservation of natural resources.

Now that we’ve signed IAASTD, we need to act on its findings. So before we get bogged down in the tired old ‘should we/shouldn’t we’ debate about GM, let’s put sustainability and social justice at the heart of the way we do research in agriculture and the institutions that exist to help us innovate.



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