The debate continues

Are genetically modified organisms good or bad? The debate continues and more and more people are getting involved on both sides

By Mario
Published: Sunday 15 August 1999

More and more people are taking sides. Some are for genetically modified organisms and some are against them. Eminent people and organisations, Prince Charles of England, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (fao) of the United Nations, the Church have all advised restraint. Altered food may be good they say, but we must watch and wait. The fao is of the view that altered food should only be considered as a possible answer to the problem of food security if all other options have been found wanting.

Therefore it is not surprising that resistance to altered food is mounting in Europe. The us is keen to push modified food. It has a major biotech industry to think about. Therefore this attitude is not surprising. The war over altered foods, with the us on one side and Europe on the other threatens to eventually dwarf the banana wars that broke out between the old and new world. However, what is surprising is that people in the us , who have never had a scare like the 'mad cow' disease, are also raising their voice against modified foodstuff.

Modified crops are known to have serious side effects upon bees and butterflies. A group of Monarch butterflies alighting on modified maize in the us came in contact with the pollen. The pollen was toxic and the Monarchs obligingly rolled over and died. It was enough to set off a debate for and against genetically modified food. Everyone felt there was definitely the need to exercise more caution.

It is, therefore, all the more important that developing countries exercise even more caution than these developed countries. It is these countries that lack research in the area of altered foodcrops and are under pressure as they have many more hungry mouths to feed. Legislation is weak and international accountability in biotechnology is virtually unheard off. It is easy for them to fall prey to multinationals, who, backed by their respective governments, have invested millions in biotechnology research and are now seeking markets to reap what they had sown earlier.

Altered food may definitely hold the key to solving Asia's food crisis. But we have to test it thoroughly before we accept it.

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