Europe's GM barrier is 'starving the poor’

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gm Poverty

Europe's GM barrier is 'starving the poor’
The EU is exacerbating poverty and starvation in the developing world via barriers against genetic modification (GM), says one of the UK’s leading scientists.

Professor Sir David King (pictured) believes that many poor nations are avoiding using GM technologies for fear of being shut out of potentially lucrative EU export markets.

Giving the Institute of Food Science and Technology 2011 lecture at the Royal Society last month (sponsored by Food Manufacture), King said: "Because we in Europe decided not to choose GM foodstuff and set the gold standard for the rest of the world, GM has been banned in many countries.

Today [GM] food production is still largely limited to North and South America. Most countries in Africa banned it, and countries elsewhere won't grow it for fear of not being able to put their products into the market."

Submergence tolerant rice

King, formerly the UK government's chief scientific adviser and now director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford, cited GM variants such as such as drought-, disease- and saline-resistant crops and 'submergence-tolerant' rice as GM technologies that would benefit developing nations. Submergence-tolerant rice prevents crop loss when there are early monsoon rains.

"Had we moved quickly to introduce submergence-tolerant rice in the 1990s this could have been in the marketplace 10 years ago and the number of lives lost as a result of malnutrition would have been very substantially reduced,"​ said King.

"We made what is maybe a lifestyle decision in a part of the world where choosing whether or not to eat a GM tomato is a real choice. In other parts of the world whether you have enough of anything to eat is the choice. And we were impacting on that decision- making process."

King added: "The scientific community needs to ... inform public debate in a rational, easily assimilable manner. We just haven't managed this well at all."

George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, believes the public will accept the need for GM if the benefits are clearly shown. "I intend to carry the flag for GM and try to sell it in parliament,"​ he said at a Crop Protection Association debate last month.

Related topics Fresh produce

Related news

Show more


Bone up on science

Posted by Elisa,

If King was really interested in feeding the world issues, instead of blindly promoting GM, he would have read the IAASTD report, which concluded that agro-ecological farming can meet the world's future food needs. It was co-authored by 400 international experts coordinated by ... the UK government.
So King should know about it.

And by the way, flood-tolerant Snorkel rice and its spin-off varieties, which is presumably the rice that King is claiming as GM, are a product of conventional breeding and are entirely non-GM.

King should bone up on his science and give up repeating inaccurate and unscientific pro-biotech PR.

Report abuse

No Lysenkoism

Posted by Geza hrazdina,

Like under Stalin,and his faithful scientific adviser Lysenko, science in our society has been subordinated to politics. Every food we eat is, like it or not, genetically modified (GM). Without genetic modification the egg would not be fertilized and we would not have new plants or animals.

As demonstrated by apples, melons, tomatoes, corn, rice and soybeans, the cis and transgenic offspring is of higher quality than their individual parents. The process of achieving this has been duly described in the scientific literature , as are the analyses of the new plants, fruits and seeds.

Abandoning these because of criticism by scientifically illiterate groups or persons, and putting science under control of politics is Neolysenkoism, no matter how we slice it.

Report abuse

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast