Agricultural Biotechnology: Economics, Environment, Ethics, and the Future
Posted: 22 Oct 2013
Date Written: October 2013
Agricultural biotechnology and, specifically, the development of genetically modified (GM) crops have been controversial for several reasons, including concerns that the technology poses potential negative environmental or health effects, that the technology would lead to the (further) corporatization of agriculture, and that it is simply unethical to manipulate life in the laboratory. GM crops have been part of the agricultural landscape for more than 15 years and have now been adopted on more than 170 million hectares (ha) in both developed countries (48%) and developing countries (52%). On the basis of this substantial history and data spanning many years, the economic and environmental impacts of GM crops can now be summarized with some certainty, and the analysis indicates that, on balance, many benefits have accrued from the adoption of GM crops. There continue to be many ethical issues that are being debated, and many are being resolved through institutional interventions. The future of agricultural productivity would be better served if the genetic modification debate were less polarized and were focused on the potential for complementarity of GM technologies within a diversified farming system framework.
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