Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
Chapter 19: The motivation and impact of organized public resistance against agricultural biotechnology
Fifteen years of experience with the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops and countless national and international risk assessments of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) suggest that the risks related to this new technology are not any different from those already known in conventional agriculture. Despite these reassuring findings, public distrust toward GMOs has not decreased. Europe has even further tightened its de facto ban on genetic engineering in agriculture and most African countries continue to be reluctant to approve any GM crops for commercial cultivation, even if they may prove to be particularly beneficial for small-scale farmers. In order to understand this puzzling situation, we have to look at the global controversy on GMOs in the larger historical context. Professional pressure groups against GMOs have their roots in the environmental movement of the 1970s. At that time they criticized the negative environmental consequences of the Green Revolution. By assuming that the current Gene Revolution would largely represent a repetition of the mistakes of the Green Revolution, they were able to shape the risk narrative of genetic engineering in agriculture to a great extent. As an alternative to GMOs, they advocate the concept of 'food sovereignty' which envisions a type of agricultural system that helps countries to ensure food security without having to rely on agricultural trade and the use of new technologies in agriculture.
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