AndrewHowe's picture
How can you ensure the short-term and long-term wellbeing of both people and soil in "developing countries" where GMO-creating companies sell or offer their seeds (and products) in the various capacities? Please provide evidence of scientific resources that show robust care for local ecologies, cultures, economies and individual household's wellbeing.

A:Expert Answer

I was born and raised in a developing country, Honduras, and can appreciate the concern for the well-being of the people and the environment. It is really important that we consider the well-being of farmers in developing countries because they represent 90 percent of all farmers growing GM crops in the world (ISAAA, 2012). So far, biotechnology has offered developing countries farms with increased productivity, economic gains and environmental benefits, including reduced insecticide use and decreased hospital visits due to insecticide poisonings.

Please follow these links for a compilation of studies studying the impact of GM crops and experiences in developing countries:


And, shortly, we will be able to share our ongoing research between PIPRA, at the University of California, Davis; IFPRI, in Washington D.C.; and Zamorano Agricultural University, in Honduras, on the socioeconomic impact of GM corn among Honduran farmers. Our preliminary data shows farmers of GM crops benefit from increased yields and higher net income, as well as a significant decrease in pesticide application. These same effects have been seen in China, India and the Philippines.

A recent study in India showed that farm families growing GM cotton had a higher percentage of medically assisted childbirth and were more likely to have immunized children, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school. All these benefits were found to be directly related to the increased income generated by the GM cotton. Higher yields and decreased insecticide costs lead to increased farm income of up to 70 percent, according to this study by Choudhary and Gaur.


AndrewHowe's picture

Dr. Chi-Ham,
Thanks for replying, I'm excited to participate in such an open forum! I've reviewed the articles you suggested, and I am familiar with the work of some of your colleagues, especially Dr. Zilberman. I am a graduate student in International Studies and I have focused my research on agricultural innovation in biofuel production juxtaposed against food security in the Sahel.
A reduction of fertilizer and an improved income for households are important, even paramount in the short-term, but the notion that these benefits can be achieved from GM crops alone is unsubstantiated. What is also unsubstantiated is the long term impacts of further integration of peasants into a global commodity market. However, Phillip McMichael (and many others like, Santurino Jun Boras, Walden Bello, etc.) offers valuable insights relevant to the GM crop debate and the agrarian question. The consensus: GM production relies on an unsteady, (inter)national market that leaves peasants facing the brunt of market changes and international food policy. This article by Tony Weis is useful:
The important questions these individuals and others raise is acknowledged and addressed by Miguel Altieri and many others working to support agro-ecological solutions to reduce poverty, improve food security, and reinforce local ecologies. This type of approach offers increased capabilities and resilience (a la Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum) to various types of shocks, both endogenous and exogenous. Moreover, proper agro-ecological systems can eliminate the need for (most all) pesticides while diversifying incomes (that often include a more gender balanced system compared to commodity crops that men tend to dominate.
Approaching agricultural development unilaterally from a GM crops offers little assurance to farmers, but places them in danger of international market fluctuations and does little to reinforce the environmental resource capacity of these producers. Moreover, packaged innovations (seeds, inputs, machinery etc) often comes in the form of credit which risks trapping farmers in debt rather than alleviating cycles of poverty.
I guess my argument is also my question: Why doesn't GM development consider use in agroforestry systems to maximize the benefits I mentioned and many more? It seems to me that there is so much potential for prudent development of GM crops, especially regarding maturation times, root structure, etc.
I hope we can continue this discussion, thanks again for the reply!