GMOs pose specific challenges for the South

Regulatory decisions about GMOs require access to high quality technical information about environmental interactions. This information is costly to acquire, and most developing countries do not have adequate resources for this purpose, says a new briefing by the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

GMOs are a challenge to several aspects of agricultural policy in the South. These include identifying the roles and complementarities of public and private sector participation in agricultural development; formulating policies that promote the contribution of commercial agricultural firms; and strengthening public sector research and extension to meet agriculture’s responsibilities for poverty reduction, productivity improvement, and environmental protection.

The most pressing need is for good information, says the ODI. These are complex issues that cannot be debated using formulae, slogans or slick advertising. The majority of the reporting and analysis on both sides of the GMO issue has not been accompanied by adequate technical information. “Until both the public and the commentators in the North are better informed it is best to be modest in giving advice to other countries, says the ODI. Poorly informed arguments between the supporters of high science and low inputs do little to further the development of responsible policies in the South”.

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