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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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The Safety of GM Crops: The Case of Africa

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We’re often criticized for supposedly ignoring studies that say genetically modified (GM) crops have safety or performance issues. The fact is, we don’t ignore any study about our products. We closely scrutinize every study that’s published, and even things that aren’t. We look at all claims made for and against our products. 

The criticism is often based on Monsanto having a vested interest in the situation. There’s no question that we have a vested interest in our products and businesses. But we also have a vested interest in good science, sound and credible scientific studies, and making sure we provide the best information and recommendations to our customers. If we ignore sound science, we will not remain in business for very long. 

The debate about GM safety has both results and consequences. Europe has gone in one direction, although there are some indications that attitudes may be changing. The Western Hemisphere and Australia have gone in a different direction. The countries of Asia have moved in still other directions. 

And then there’s Africa. Sitting in the US or Europe, we can argue our developed-nation perspectives as much as we want, but we don’t have both the scientific expertise and the first-hand experience of a region that has faced chronic hunger. 

Ademola A. Adenle is a genetics and molecular toxicology scientist with the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies. He’s been working on a variety of projects on the role of biotechnology in sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation in developing countries, with a special focus on Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Swaziland. (And no, Monsanto did not pay for his research.) 

Dr. Adenle writes: 

“The controversies surrounding transgenic crops — a type of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — underline the need to raise public awareness on GM technology in Africa. Around the globe, GM crop-producing countries have benefited by improved crop productivity, food security and quality of life. Increased income to resource-poor farmers has been a key benefit at the individual level, especially as most countries using this technology are in the developing world, including in Africa. However, given the ongoing debate, thorough scientific investigation into the safe application of GMOs is required, and should be accomplished by educating the public on the potential benefits and risks.

“A growing body of evidence documents increased crop yields, higher farm income, and health and environment benefits associated with GM crops. In 1996, when GM crops were first officially commercialized, six countries around the world planted a total of 1.7 million hectares of GM crops. By 2010 this had grown to 148 million hectares in 29 countries (of which 19 countries were in the developing world). This 87-fold growth makes GM the fastest growing crop technology adopted in modern agriculture.”

You can read the abbreviated version of his report here and the extended version here.

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