Journal Article

GM crops in Africa: polarising the debate

Published on 3 August 2009

Ian Scoones, co-director of the ESRC STEPS Centre based at the University of Sussex, UK and Dominic Glover of the Technology and Agrarian Development Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands explore the fallout of a new book on agricultural biotechnology in Africa.

Just as everyone thought that the debate about genetically-modified (GM) crops had been more-or-less been settled around a moderate position which recognises that, while they could be useful in some circumstances, they are not the solution to everything, a new book bursts onto the scene that once again polarises the debate.

“Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept out of Africa” is a provocative polemic from US-based political science professor, Robert Paarlberg. It argues that GM crops must play the central role in solving Africa’s hunger and poverty and that, through inadequate investment, external lobbying and stringent regulations, Africa’s farmers are being deprived of the technology and prevented from achieving agricultural success. The blame lies primarily with Europe, according to Paarlberg, and especially with European NGOs and governments trying to foist their affluent values and precautionary sensibilities on Africa?s poor people.


Ian Scoones

Professorial Fellow


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