GM crops, Golden Rice and other related technologies polarise opinion: they are the solution to the global food crisis; or they are ‘frankenfoods’ causing irreversible environmental harm. Concerns about poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, farmers’ livelihoods and the role of the private sector; the challenges of regulation in different settings; and how to involve the public in policy decisions drive this challenging debate. However, a simplistic ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ stance leaves little room for a more informed and balanced debate not only about these technologies, but a range of alternative innovations too.
This page features highlights from our work on how science, policy and politics interact in this area. It includes selected projects, events, books and peer-reviewed articles.
10 years of research into GM crops, development and the food crisis are brought together in this online resource under four themes. Each theme has an overview plus regional sections covering Africa, China, India and Latin America.
View articles and papers from this project, which compared the regulation of two technologies – transgenic cotton seeds and antibiotics – with the way those technologies are experienced amongst poorer communities in rural Argentina and China.
Debates about transgenic crops have become highly polarised across the globe. In the process, civil society organisations and movements have emerged as key actors, alongside governmental and ‘expert’ science institutions. This project looked at how to ‘open up’ debates about and beyond biosafety in Kenya and the Philippines.
Rice Biofortification: Lessons for Global Science and Development by Sally Brooks (Earthscan 2010). Part of the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability series
Biofortification – the enrichment of staple food crops with essential micronutrients – has been heralded as a uniquely sustainable solution to the problem of micronutrient deficiency or ‘hidden hunger’. Through an in-depth analysis of international rice biofortification efforts across the US, Philippines and China, this book provides an important critique of such goal-oriented, top-down approaches.
The search for ‘silver bullet’ solutions comes at the expense of more incremental approaches that respond to locality, diversity and the complex and uncertain interactions between people and their environments.
Patrick van Zwanenberg, Adrian Ely and Adrian Smith (Earthscan 2011)
Part of the STEPS Centre’s Pathways to Sustainability series
Examining the regulation of technologies, this book explores how the drive to harmonize regulatory policies across the world is at odds with the increasingly diverse local settings in which they are implemented. The authors use a ‘framings’ approach that starts with the concerns and experiences of technology users and works ‘upwards’ in order to examine how best to improve regulation.
The book centres around two in-depth case study topics: regulation of transgenic cotton seed and regulation of antibiotics, compared across situations in China and Argentina.
- Why the fuss about GM food? Other innovations are available (Andy Stirling, The Guardian – Political Science blog, 28 June 2013)
- GM crops ten years on: hope, hype and reality (Ian Scoones, Institute of Development Studies, May 2009)
- ‘Golden Rice’ and the GM crop debate (Sally Brooks, 24 June 2013)
Selected papers & articles
- Undying Promise: Agricultural Biotechnology’s Pro-poor Narrative, Ten Years On by Dominic Glover (STEPS Centre 2009)
- Is international agricultural research a global public good? The case of rice biofortification (2011) by Sally Brooks, Journal of Peasant Studies
- Regulatory harmonization and agricultural biotechnology in Argentina and China: Critical assessment of state-centered and decentered approaches (2010) by Patrick van Zwanenberg, Adrian Ely, Adrian Smith, Chen Chuanbo, Ding Shijun, Maria-Eugenia Fazio, Laura Goldberg, Regulation & Governance
STEPS members working on GM crops and biotechnology include: