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GM Foods, Society and Food Security Reminder of Global Political / Social Context - Essay GM Nation? – UK Societal Context and Your Views Stakeholder Perspectives.

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Presentation on theme: "GM Foods, Society and Food Security Reminder of Global Political / Social Context - Essay GM Nation? – UK Societal Context and Your Views Stakeholder Perspectives."— Presentation transcript:

1 GM Foods, Society and Food Security Reminder of Global Political / Social Context - Essay GM Nation? – UK Societal Context and Your Views Stakeholder Perspectives African Perspectives and Links to Food Security Debate Past Experiences of Agricultural Technology Likely Futures???

2 Coursework Essay (25% of module mark) Outline current understandings of the threats to global food security caused by land degradation and climate change and analyse the potential for GM agricultural technology to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Submit to UG Environment office (via pigeon holes in UG foyer – opposite LTF) by Tuesday November 9th

3 Good Practice in Essay Writing Introduction – including specific aim of the essay and brief overview of structure followed (ie. in your words from the start!) Main body – –Contrasting views and your analysis to show your understanding –Use diagrams where possible to cut the waffle –Always reference secondary data / views in text of essay (author, year) eg. (FAO, 2000; UNEP, 1997; DEFRA, 2003; Dougill, 2003) –Logical flow to arguments Conclusion – synthesis of main views and your views on key messages for future Reference list – write out in full sources used – essential for all coursework, though not expected in exam!

4 Social / Political Context MDG 1, Target 2 – “Halve between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger” In South Asia the challenge is improving the distribution of plentifully available food In Sub-Saharan Africa the challenge also involves  agricultural productivity UNDP HDR2003 states that – “Increased investments are needed to research and develop better technologies & disseminate them through extension services. Yet public investments and donor support for agriculture have fallen in recent decades” FAO 2004 – “genetic engineering is a ‘global war of rhetoric’ …biotechnology can overcome production constraints that are more difficult or intractable with conventional breeding.. But it’s not a panacea”

5 Genetic Modification of Food Genetic Modification (GM) – “involves moving genetic material from the cells of one organism to those of another, be they related or unrelated” (DEFRA, 2003) The first GM plants were bred in the 1980s, and the first commercial crops were grown on a large scale in Globally, the four main GM crops being grown commercially are soybean (62 % of global soybean), maize (19 %), cotton (13 %) and oilseed rape (5 %). In 2002, GM crops grown worldwide covered twice the land area of Britain (58.7 million hectares) Globally, approximately 6 million farmers in 16 countries (7 developed; 9 developing) grow GM crops, with 75 per cent of these farmers coming from the developing world –All from DEFRA,

6 GM – Scientific Context See scientific debates at – An acceptance that major communication / public awareness required, but an assumption that GM crops are here to stay and that need to ensure benefits reach developing nations Stress need to move away from opinionated views on ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to recognise that must assess safety of each new product on its own individual merit UK field trials showed that GM maize had no detrimental impact on soil biodiversity of fields; beet and rape significantly reduced biodiversity

7 GM Nation? An unprecedented event of an open, inclusive public debate before any change in public policy Designed to inform policy and to raise public awareness beyond those people taking part Funded by DEFRA (£650k) & designed to cover the full range of issues raised by GM technology Open Debate - Involved 675 public meetings on range of scales (c. 25,000 people); web-site that had 2.9 million hits from 24,609 visitors during active phase (60 % response rate); 1,200 letters or s – 36,557 completed questionnaires Narrow-but-Deep Consultations – survey research on typical cross- section of public (not involved in open debate) over 2 week period Still > % of UK public actively involved! – lowest relative response rate from 16 – 19 year olds

8 GM Nation? The Main Findings People are generally uneasy about GM The more people engage in GM issues, the harder their attitudes – narrow-but-deep group surveyed across 2 weeks of information provision There is little support for early commercialisation There is widespread mistrust of Government and MNC’s There is a broad desire to know more and for more research to be done – “no one knows enough at the moment” Developing countries have special interests The debate was welcomed and valued

9 Comparison to Your Views From a class of 100 there is 1 GM Nation respondent!? Vast majority believe public is right to be sceptical – –“still unclear as to what long-term effects will be”; –“it reeks of ‘playing god’”; –“messing with nature has proved dangerous in the past with mad cow disease”; –“not necessary as we have enough food in the world”; –“could have drastic consequences on biodiversity as we know it” –“will only benefit wealthy companies not the world’s poor as with baby milk controversies” 8 people believe public is wrong to be sceptical – –“don’t realise facts due to poor media portrayal”; –“may be a solution to starvation and would produce ‘perfect’ looking food” –“need to increase awareness and improve labelling of foods” Views on if GM met a public interest (  hunger) much more varied – –“yes, it is the only way forward out of the poverty trap”; –“no, these countries shouldn’t be used as guinea pigs” –“need to assess public interest against potential risks more adequately”

10 UK Media Portrayal of GM debate - Frankenstein Foods Much media attention and concern in tabloid press decrying “unnatural” process Much confusion with mad cow disease and distrust of food safety issues of great public concern since the early 1990s Campaigns driven by prominent Environmental groups (FoE, Greenpeace) and media figures (Prince of Wales, celebrity chefs) - taken on-board by producers / supermarkets due to consumer pressure

11 Some GM headlines in last 5 years – “A Hot Potato” “Frankenstein Food Fiasco” - Daily Express, 99 “Mutant tomatoes not to our taste” - Daily Mail, 99 “GM foods to avoid like the plague” - Guardian, 00 “Frankenstein foods - are we being hysterical?” - London Evening Standard, 00 => Catchy headlines helped turn Europeans so strongly against GM foods, while Americans have barely noticed their spread

12 The Science behind the Headlines Food safety scares (e.g. BSE, Foot and Mouth) & role of biotech companies in not separating GM and non-GM crops led to widespread public scepticism of the ‘science’ The Royal Society wrote to press to complain that ‘bad science’ was driving decision-making –Globally, 25,000 field trials without any health consequences Refers to work of Dr Arpad Pusztai whose work on feeding rats GM potatoes had shown potential harmful effects His work not published in scientific journals & widely criticised, then ‘sacked’ & Govt funding withdrawn - led to portrayal of a cover up

13 Changing Views of UK Govt Throughout scandal Govt favoured the continued experimental investigation of the potential health and biodiversity impacts of GM crops (in labs & field trials) due to economic potential of technology - Bemoaned media handling of the issue, Michael Meacher (2000) - “ I think it has been largely a propaganda exercise rather than the provision of factual information … We have done our best to counter it with scientific consensus, but the power of the media is so great that we have had no more than a marginal effect ” However agreed that “ no GM crops would be grown commercially until we are satisfied there will be no unacceptable impacts on the environment ” (Tony Blair, 2000) But, go-ahead given to commercial GM maize production after field trials and EU agreement (9 th Sept 2004)

14 UK - Lessons to be Learned The Precautionary Principle drives the need for more scientific investigation, but uncertainty in scientific messages prone to mis-representation Public concerns (over role of science and MNC’s) and consumer patterns are more important drivers of change than scientific arguments or Government support Health and environment remain high on the agenda and unlikely that UK public views will change even with further scientific studies

15 GM Views and Environmentalist Perspectives Different stakeholders expressing views that match their philosophical views on human-environment relations: - “New (GM) rice was created through public research and should be available to all. For developing world countries and their starving millions, it is life or death” –Prof Anthony Trewavas, Univ of Edinburgh (from Guardian,99) –Technocentric viewpoint “The biotech industry has been forced to use poverty and malnutrition as a justification for its continued (commercial) existence” –Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK (from Guardian, 1999) –Ecocentric viewpoint “GM takes mankind into the realms that belong to God alone” –HRH Prince of Wales, 1998 –Theocentric viewpoint

16 Hunger and GM GM Nation recognised that developing countries have special interests and class this as “debate within the debate” Active participants reject view that GM could benefit developing countries, by a majority Narrow-but-Deep sample supported use of GM and this support increased as they became more engaged in issues Opposition based less on negative feelings to GM, but more on the view that there are better ways to promote development (fair trade, better food distribution, better governance etc.) People sceptical as to whether MNC’s will deliver benefits to people of developing world

17 GM - An African perspective Clear message delivered to OECD Conference on Food Safety, July 2000 (quoted from Krebs, 2000) “We would like to be like you, with plenty of food for our people. We need every tool at our disposal to achieve this, including biotechnology, which will allow us to grow things without costly chemicals and irrigation systems we cannot afford” “GM may be better for Africa than older technologies, like those of the Green Revolution.. Which failed Africa because it came from the West” –Wambungu, 2000 Many African opponents – “Africa’s genetic resources are being exploited by global transnational corporations” –Wangari Maathai, 2004

18 Global Trends in Food Production

19 Nitrogen Application by Region Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), FAOSTAT Statistical Database (FAO, Rome, 1997).

20 Tractor Use

21 Cassava research: West African success story Cassava root - excellent energy source; leaves rich in vit A, C, Fe and Ca New varieties produced using biotechnology (cross- breeding) in 1980s; reduced undernourishment markedly - Ghana from 62 to 10%; Nigeria 44 to 8% ( ) Improved drought resistance crucial

22 Key Reading DEFRA (2003) GM Nation? The findings of the public debate. FAO (2004) The State of Food and Agriculture 2003 – 2004: Agricultural Biotechnology: meeting the needs of the poor? Krebs, J. (2000) Seeds of hope. New Scientist, 5/8/00, See also - Rowell, A. (2003) Don’t Worry It’s Safe to Eat: The True story of GM food, BSE and Foot and Mouth. Earthscan, London. Chapter 1. UNDP (2003) Human Development Report See overview from -


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