What are the
Millennium Development Goals?
eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from
halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing
universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 –
form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and
the world’s leading development institutions. They have
galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the
poorest" (UN Website, 2007).
Eight Specific Development Goals:
extreme poverty and hunger
universal primary education
gender equality and empower women
HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
a global partnership for development
The debate over genetically modified crops
touches on five of these eight goals, and peripherally affects the
other three, making it an incredibly relevant and important issue to
And Their Relevance To The Goals:
extreme poverty and hunger:
If the often cited potential to increase crop yields and to fortify
crops against pests, droughts, and other abiotic stressors proves true,
that would make genetic modification appear to be one very promising
tool in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by reducing
the risk of crop failure and making crops more productive.
universal primary education:
Malnutrition has serious effects on cognitive and physical
development. If genetic modification proves capable of
micronutrient deficiencies, increasing crop yields, and helping to
alleviate poverty, it seems likely that children would face less demand
for their labor at home and would simultaneously be more prepared to
succeed in an education system.
gender equality and empower women:
Genetic modification would seem to have little effect whatsoever in
this regard, with the exception that it could help current
cultural systems and power structures to remain viable, thus possibly
delaying some form of cultural change, although it would be imprudent
to speculate as to what sort of change that might be.
"Over half of all infant deaths in developing nations are associated
with a lack of essential vitamins and nutrients" (Acharya, 2004). Once again, the possibility of addressing
micronutrient deficiencies would seemingly make it difficult to deny
the potential benefits of genetic modification.
Iron deficiency causes anemia, which is one of the leading causes of
maternal mortality. If current diets could be fortified with
extra iron, there would be potential for great progress.
Likewise, other improvements in micronutrient consumption would also
help to improve maternal health.
HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases:
Malnutrition, which "affects approximately one in five people living in
developing countries" Acharya, 2004), amplifies the
effects of infectious diseases. Lack of essential vitamins
minerals weakens the immune system, thus increasing the likelihood that
infection will develop into disease and limiting the ability of the
body to recover. Clearly, the ability to improve diets in
developing countries would provide a great opportunity to help combat
the spread of disease.
One of the promises coming from supporters of biotechnology
that genetic modification will allow for greatly reduced reliance on
all forms of agricultural chemicals by engineering resistance and
greater yields directly into the seed, thus eliminating the need for
expensive and environmentally damaging chemical inputs. There
however, a dangerous potential loss of biodiversity with the widespread
adoption of genetically homogeneous modified crops, as well as a
potential, however unlikely, for extensive damage caused by a loss of
control of gene flows once modified varieties are introduced.
a global partnership for development:
Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, has said that "We will have time
to reach the Millennium Development Goals--worldwide and in most, or
even all, individual countries--but only if we break with business as
usual" (UN Website, 2007). The manner in which genetic
modification is approached by the world community will have huge
implications for the structure of this "global partnership," and also
for the success--or failure--of the Millennium Development
Image 3: The
Symbol of the United Nations
Image 4: A hungry mother and
5: Child at school in Zambia
6: An area which has not been managed
sustainability in mind.