BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in:  World: South Asia
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
GM crops win new friends
Cotton pickers
GM cotton has been approved for use in India
test hello test
By Alex Kirby
News Online's Environment Correspondent
line
Genetically modified (GM) crops have taken a big step towards wider public acceptance this week.

India announced on 26 March that it had approved the use of a type of GM cotton for commercial production.

The biotechnology industry believes it is poised to persuade consumers that they have nothing to fear.


Small cotton farmers in India there have been vociferous in saying no to GM crops - they think it'll mean they're simply handed over to Monsanto and the rest of the industry

Peter Riley, Friends of the Earth
But the opponents of GM crops say they still have everything to fight for.

Last week's decision is important because India has been reluctant to accept the new technology.

It is the world's third largest producer of cotton, after China and the US. But it has had to compete with them despite the handicap of low productivity - something it hopes the GM strain will help to resolve.

This year, about 71% of the US cotton crop will come from GM plants, up 2% on 2001.

In China the area of GM cotton sown rose from 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) in 1997 to around 700,000 hectares (1,700,000 acres) in 2000.

GM crops in the developing world

Although cotton is sometimes used for animal feed, it is not something people eat - and anti-GM campaigners say that is a crucial difference which should give the industry pause for thought.

Pete Riley, of Friends of the Earth in the UK, told BBC News Online: "It is not a foregone conclusion that developing countries will accept GM varieties as food crops, especially as they may not be as well adapted to local conditions as existing strains.

"In any case, there's still huge opposition in India.

"Small cotton farmers there have been vociferous in saying no to GM crops - they think it'll mean they're simply handed over to Monsanto and the rest of the industry."

Another country which has hesitated over biotechnology is Brazil, but an imminent court ruling there could open the way for the planting of GM soya beans.

World hunger

One of the proudest boasts of the industry is that it has found a way to tackle world hunger. There is far more to ensuring that malnourished people get fed than simply growing more food.


To deny desperate, hungry people the means to control their futures by presuming to know what is best for them is not only paternalistic but morally wrong

Hassan Adamu, Nigerian Environment Minister
But there are those who say that GM technology looks much more attractive if your stomach is empty, and that it may have a part to play.

Nigeria's Environment Minister, Hassan Adamu, says: "To deny desperate, hungry people the means to control their futures by presuming to know what is best for them is not only paternalistic but morally wrong."

A book published last year, Seeds of Contention: World Hunger And The Global Controversy Over GM Crops, develops the argument.

It was written by Dr Per Pinstrup-Andersen, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri), and Ebbe Schioler, an agricultural development consultant.

They say: "Heated public debate threatens to drown out all serious consideration of the important promise genetic engineering has for the poor and hungry in developing countries."

They recognise that the biotechnology industry will need "some sort of ownership protection" if it is to invest in research.

But they say this need not be "the form of blanket protection provided by patents... some more limited arrangement such as the plant variety protection regulations might suffice".

See also:

26 Mar 02 | Business
India allows use of modified cotton
27 Mar 02 | Business
Warning over India GM cotton plan
22 Jan 02 | Business
India nears decision on GM crops
06 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
India allows sale of GM cotton
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories