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Environmental Studies

GM Crops And The MDGs

Millennium Goals
Major Questions

Golden Rice and India

Findings & Framework for Progress
References & Links

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After exploring these issues both on a global scale and on a more localized one, there are some normative statements that need to be made.  Genetic modification as a technology is morally neutral and thus the debate should be focused not on whether or not genetic modification is some sort of abomination, but rather on questions that are more relevant to how it should be utilized.  There are major questions that need to be asked about food security, environmental impacts, and intellectual property rights.  What is clear is that in all of these cases there is a need for transparency, free access to information, and involvement of stakeholders in decision making processes.  The current system is not working because it does not address poverty and inequality as the root causes of food insecurity and it encourages the privatization of research in pursuit of profit rather than the public good.

Framework for Progress

In order to make real progress on meeting the Millennium Development Goals, it is necessary that development efforts consider the socioeconomic causes of poverty and food insecurity, that research be collaborative and results be transparent, and above all else that living organisms, if they are to be considered intellectual property at all, be considered a part of the creative commons.  Research should follow an open-source development structure.  In this framework, corporations could still make profits selling seeds, but they would not be proprietary owners of the specific genes that make up the organism, allowing for the saving and swapping of seeds.  The knowledge acquired about each organism would be considered a part of our common property as humans and anyone would have access to that knowledge.  By removing research from the private sphere, any research pursued would actually be in pursuit of the greater good rather than a greater profit.  Furthermore, a rigorous regulatory system must be in place to ensure the safety of modified crops with regard to both human and environmental health.  Because this regulatory system would be making decisions which affect large numbers of people, it should intimately involve those stakeholders in the decision making process.  This is not to remove the need for or value of expertise in decision making, but simply to bring in the perspectives of the people that will be most affected by those decisions and to foster communication and understanding between them and those pursuing research and regulating the resultant technologies.  By working in a manner which looks holistically at the problems people face and considering all the consequences of our actions, we will have the greatest opportunity to make real progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Happy Rice Farmer

Image 17: Smiling rice farmer in the Phillipines.

Last updated:  5/8/2007


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