Agricultural Biotechnology: Benefits, Opportunities, and Leadership

Harvard Univ., Kennedy School, Belfer Center / Testimony of Calestous Juma to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture

[From Written Testimony]  Skeptics have sought over the last 20 years to slow down the application of agricultural biotechnology. International collaboration on biotechnology for African agriculture has also been uncertain. But the tide is turning. For example, a recent study prepared by the European Commission, A Decade of EU‐Funded GMO Research (2001–2010), concluded:

“Biotechnologies could provide us with useful tools in sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, food production and industry. Crop production will have to cope with rapidly increasing demand while ensuring environmental sustainability. Preservation of natural resources and the need to support the livelihoods of farmers and rural populations around the world are major concerns. In order to achieve the best solutions, we must consider all the alternatives for addressing these challenges using independent and scientifically sound methods. These alternatives include genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their potential use.”

The study drew its conclusions from the work of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research involving more than 500 independent research groups. It most important conclusion was “that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies. Another very important conclusion is that today’s biotechnological research and applications are much more diverse than they were 25 years ago…” The conclusions are similar to those reached by the United States National Academies and reinforce the science‐based practices that inform the work of Unites States regulatory agencies…


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