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Global Perspectives on the Benefits of Biotech Crops

July 17, 2014
Three farmers, each from a different developing country, recently shared their perspectives on GMO Answers about how biotech crops can contribute to improved food security - growing more food using fewer resources, with seeds that help farmers adapt to changing climate conditions.

Gilbert Arap Bor writes how biotech seeds, currently banned in Kenya, could help address devastating yield loss due to plant disease:

In Kenya, there is hope that 2014 will bring a lifting of the ban on GM imports and mark the first time Kenyan farmers will have access to important tools of agricultural technology that have been withheld from them…

We have to grow more food on less land, at a time when climate change and disease threaten staple crops. In Kenya’s Rift Valley, grain farmers are watching a deadly virus cut yields by more than 70 percent. I, for one, harvested a mere 20 bags (about 2 tons) from one hectare of maize that normally yields 80 bags (7.5 tons)! Kenya now faces the stark reality of a shortage of over 10 million bags of maize, according to Minister of Agriculture CS Koskey. This significant loss of harvest due to disease could be minimized by the quick adoption of biotech seeds.

Recalling the success that Indian farmers have experienced in growing Bt cotton, V. Ravichandran states that India “must embrace agricultural biotechnology as part of the solution” in order to meet rising food demands:

Climate change is having a bad influence as well: Cyclone Phailin has dumped an enormous amount of rain on India, but last year we had almost drought-like conditions in many parts of India. The success or failure of our farming is monsoon dependent. The monsoons that traditionally provide normal levels of precipitation have become less dependable, and we don’t have precise weather prediction that would enable us to plan our farming strategy. All of this puts our food security at risk. In a nation of more than one billion citizens, the stakes are high indeed.

If we’re going to be serious about producing more food on less land, then India must embrace agricultural biotechnology as part of the solution.

We’ve already learned through experience about the benefits of genetically modified cotton. The success story of Bt cotton stands as a testimony to the robustness of the technology. More than 90 percent of India’s cotton farmers now use biotechnology because they’ve seen how it works.

Lastly, Rosalie Ellasus discusses her concern about how anti-GMO activist campaigns are impacting consumer attitudes towards GMO foods and shares how biotech crops have made a positive impact on her and her family’s lives:

I’m very concerned that the judges have ruled against a technology that would make it easier for farmers to grow talong (eggplant) and mothers to feed it to their children.

If their decision had been based in sound scientific reasoning, then it would make sense and be accepted. Farmers don’t want to hurt the environment, and mothers don’t want to feed harmful food to their children…

Biotechnology is widely accepted around the world, where farmers have harvested more than 3.5 billion acres of it over the last 20 years. A few of those acres have been mine. I started growing GM crops shortly after the death of my husband. They helped me get my life back together and gave me the financial means to send my children to school...

My personal experience demonstrates what scientists all over the world have said: GM crops are a safe and proven option. That’s what the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and many other groups have proclaimed, along with the National Academy of Science and Technology here in the Philippines.

To read the answers in their entirety, follow here