With GM back on the agenda, pro and anti campaigners are digging in. But the Food Ethics Council calls for an urgent reframing of the debate.
It’s time the world moved on from asking whether we want or need GM. They are leading questions, and the answer you get depends on who’s asking.
Instead, let’s ask marginal farmers and poor communities how they see the challenges they face. Then together, we can work out the best way to solve the problems.
It sounds simple, but our scientific institutions, regulatory bodies, innovation policies and intellectual property regimes are not fit to perform that task.
To find effective solutions to solving global problems of food insecurity, we must first make institutional changes. As a signatory to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) the UK government should already be doing this.
IAASTD found that the incentives for science to address the issues that matter are weak; and that many OECD members don’t consider 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.
So let’s take IAASTD’s recommendations to heart in our debates about GM, by putting sustainability and social justice at the heart of our institutions and the way we do research into agriculture.
The British government should: