GM crops may be vital to developing countries

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Related tags: United nations

A new report by the United Nations affirms that genetically
modified organisms could be vital to developing countries as a
newly developed high-yield variety of rice does not require
fertiliser or pesticide.

According to the United Nations, new technologies, including genetically modified foods, could be vital to developing countries trying to improve living standards. On July 10, the UN's keynote human development report claimed that developments in bioscience and information technology would directly help poor people. It added that the 20-year international development goals it had set in 1995 for reducing poverty and infant and maternal mortality, and for achieving universal primary education, were not likely to be met by the 2015 deadline. Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said he has been criticised, largely because of the annual report's support for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which have provoked strong opposition in rich countries. "We need a rigorous policy environment to make sure the benefits are captured by developing countries. But with this in place, we strongly argue that such technology has strong applications in the South,"​ he added. He said that recent research by the UNDP and others had resulted in a new high-yield variety of rice that could be grown without fertiliser or pesticide. The report argued that countries such as Argentina and Egypt, which have approved production of GMOs, show that "developing countries can create biosafety systems that enable them to move forward in managing technological safety."​ But the report balanced its support for new technology by criticising the trade- related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) rules. These rules had failed to deliver transfer of new technology to poor countries and had proved too complex for developing nations to register patents on a large scale. The report noted that TRIPS permit countries to issue compulsory licences to override patents for emergency and non-commercial use, a route followed by several rich countries, including the US. "Not one compulsory licence has been issued south of the equator,"​ the report said. "Pressure from Europe and the United States makes many developing countries fear they will lose foreign direct investment if they legislate for or use compulsory licences."

Related topics: Science

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