Removing politics from innovations that improve food security
journal contributionposted on 07.12.2021, 00:25 by SJ Smyth, A McHughen, J Entine, D Kershen, Carl RamageCarl Ramage, W Parrott
Genetically modified (GM) organisms and crops have been a feature of food production for over 30 years. Despite extensive science-based risk assessment, the public and many politicians remain concerned with the genetic manipulation of crops, particularly food crops. Many governments have addressed public concern through biosafety legislation and regulatory frameworks that identify and regulate risks to ensure human health and environmental safety. These domestic regulatory frameworks align to international scientific risk assessment methodologies on a case-by-case basis. Regulatory agencies in 70 countries around the world have conducted in excess of 4400 risk assessments, all reaching the same conclusion: GM crops and foods that have been assessed provide no greater risk to human health or the environment than non-GM crops and foods. Yet, while the science regarding the safety of GM crops and food appears conclusive and societal benefits have been globally demonstrated, the use of innovative products have only contributed minimal improvements to global food security. Regrettably, politically-motivated regulatory barriers are currently being implemented with the next genomic innovation, genome editing, the implications of which are also discussed in this article. A decade of reduced global food insecurity was witnessed from 2005 to 2015, but regrettably, the figure has subsequently risen. Why is this the case? Reasons have been attributed to climate variability, biotic and abiotic stresses, lack of access to innovative technologies and political interference in decision making processes. This commentary highlights how political interference in the regulatory approval process of GM crops is adversely affecting the adoption of innovative, yield enhancing crop varieties, thereby limiting food security opportunities in food insecure economies.