Presentation on theme: "GM agriculture for UDCs: an appropriate technology for development? Erik Millstone February 2013."— Presentation transcript:
GM agriculture for UDCs: an appropriate technology for development? Erik Millstone February 2013
Chronic under-nutrition in UDCs is a scandal in a world in which, in aggregate, there is more than enough food for everyone. Currently something like 1,000,000,000 people are chronically under-nourished.
Chronic hunger is caused by poverty not by scarcity. It is an artefact of socio-economic regimes, not the product of biology. It is a socio-economic problem not a technological one, and not one that GM technology can be relied on to solve.
The Green Revolution showed that inappropriate technology can be technically successful but a socio- economic failure because it amplified inequalities. More food was produced in eg Punjab, but ironically more people suffered chronic hunger, because the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. In Kerala and Taiwan, there was a more beneficial outcome.
Often the appropriateness of GM foods is discussed in terms of ‘the technology of genetic manipulation’, but I believe that it is more important to consider particular ‘technological trajectories’ along which they are being, or could be developed, and regulatory regimes within which they operate.
We can identify some conditions under which GM technology might be used in ways that could benefit poor subsistence farmers in rural areas of developing countries, eg GM staples for the Sahel region that were safe and nutritious, but unpalatable to locusts - though only if other socio-economic conditions were also met.
Subsistence farmers in SSA have never used herbicides. They hoe out weeds. New technologies for SSA must be employment-generating not labour- displacing. Insect resistant Bt crops have been developed for the pests on industrial farms not subsistence farms; they are far too expensive for the poor.
WEMA and Harvest Plus will be irrelevant to the needs of subsistence farmers, unless the seeds are very low priced or free OPVs rather than hybrids free of IPR restrictions productive without other costly inputs reliable across climatic and seasonal variations. WEMA is designed to be fully commercial hybrids partly IPR protected highly input responsive, and drought-specific.
A poor-farmer-friendly GM trajectory would be very different. It would need to be: farmer first, bottom-up choice of R&D goals independent of MNC corporate control socio-economically and cultural sensitive employment-generating not labour-displacing resilience-enhancing dependency-reducing affordable sustainable and risk reducing.
But those are not the technological trajectories that have been pursued eg by Monsanto for exports to UDCs, or by China or India. In the mid-1990s a team in the Netherlands tried to apply agricultural biotechnology to provide pro-poor technological solutions to poor farmers, but with too little funding, and too few links to representative of smallholder farmers in UDCs.
Are the GM crops currently available, and those under development, suitable for the needs and interests of poor rural subsistence farmers? The answer is unambiguously: NO. Herbicide tolerant crops were developed eg by Monsanto to extract rent from ‘Round Up’, once the patents on glyphosate expired.
Colleagues and I in the STEPS Maize project, worked with poor Kenyan maize farmers in a semi-arid ‘low-potential’ area. The farmers identified 9 possible technological trajectories:
Field and Panel Data Sites Sakai, Mbooni East – Low Potential Likuyani, Kakamega – High Potential Ngecha, Nakuru – Medium Potential
Typology of Pathways Low Maize High Maize Low external input High external input
Typology of Pathways 1 – Alternative dryland staples for subsistence 2 – Alternative dryland staples for market 3 – local improvement of local maize 5 – Assisted seed multiplication of maize 4 – Assisted seed multiplication of alternative dryland staples 6 – Individual high-value crop commercialization 7 – Group-based high-value crop commercialization 8 – Commercial delivery of new DT maize varieties 9 – Public delivery of new DT maize varieties Low Maize High Maize Low input High input
Pathways in maize: Sakai farmer performance rankings show a preference for local maize, not new maize
Pathways in maize: Maize Security ≠ Food Security Performance rankings for groups of Nairobi-based informants against a set of stress tolerance criteria show a higher performance for new maize varieties
The results of the STEPS maize project show that there are ways in which ‘farmer first’ innovation strategies can be identified, but it remains to be seen whether the dominant government institutions and the professional plant breeding scientists are prepared to listen and then to invest.