To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

August 16, 2011

'Britain's foreign aid could fund UK-based research on GM crops for drought-ridden Africa'

The UK government is increasing foreign aid payments but is this aid solving a problem or just prolonging it? Whilst some of the aid does go towards in-country projects, too often this does not deliver sustainable improvements, or worse, it lines the pockets of dictators. At the same time, cuts in government spending in agricultural research are now threatening our technology base.

"We should counter this by diverting some of our growing overseas aid payments into UK-based research towards developing GM crops resistant to drought, heat, pests and diseases," advises British Crop Production Council’s chairman, Dr Colin Ruscoe. "This would provide sustainable solutions in famine-prone parts of the world. At the same time, we can use these technology platforms to target key UK crops – wheat, potatoes and oilseed rape."

A recent statement of the UK Government’s policy on GM crops in England highlighted the benefits of GM technology in agriculture. This position is, among other things, based on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruling which shows that there is "no scientific evidence associating GM plants with higher risks for the environment – or for food and feed safety – than (from) conventional plants and organisms".

"The European Parliament is now proposing to allow member states to disregard EFSA advice and ban the cultivation of GM crops for non-scientific reasons, quoting ’socio-economic factors", says Dr Ruscoe. "This is driven by political agendas rather than science, threatens the single market and discourages EU and UK scientific research. It also inhibits European private sector investment in agricultural biotechnology development and commercialisation. As a result EU food production is not benefitting from GMO traits."

Meanwhile, the benefits of GM technology are being appreciated in other parts of the world. In 2010, 15 million farmers planted around 150 million hectares of GM crops worldwide – thirty times the cropped area of the UK. The US and South America, Canada and China are now reaping these benefits, with India soon to follow.

Whilst EU Member States can ban GM crops on unscientific grounds, the UK is sensibly choosing not to. "We should exploit this competitive advantage," says Dr Ruscoe. "Originally the UK led the way in GM research ¬– particularly in agricultural biotechnology – and it still has important centres of excellence in this field, at the John Innes centre, NIAB, Rothamsted Research and Newcastle University. So, whilst the rest of the EU remains paralysed, the UK should again take the lead in researching traits – using GM and other plant breeding technologies."

"By targeting foreign aid into areas where it will have a sustainable impact in developing countries, and by exploiting our world class research base to provide appropriate technologies that improve food production and UK commercial competitiveness, we surely achieve a win-win situation," says Dr Ruscoe.

Farming UK

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by Ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP