GM crops ten years on: hope, hype and reality

Topic Selected: Biotech and Bioethics

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By Ian Scoones, co-director ESRC STEPS Centre


A decade ago there was much hope and hype about the potential of GM crops. They were going to feed the world and solve poverty and development issues. It was claimed that pest-resistant crops using so-called Bt technologies to resist insect predation could reduce pesticide use and improve farmers’ incomes, and that technologies for dealing with drought or nutrient deficits were in the pipeline. GM crops would help poorer farmers in the developing world, with a ‘gene revolution’ succeeding the ‘green revolution’ of previous decades.
However, others predicted disaster: GM crops would result in environmental and health catastrophes and global domination of agriculture by large corporations. Just as the pro-GM lobby could be accused of excessive, unfounded hype, anti-GM campaigners often generated doomsday scenarios based on limited evidence.
In reality, a more complex and mixed story has eme

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