Few technologies are viewed with as much suspicion as genetic modification. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are banned in several parts of the world; an entire protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is dedicated to controlling their effects on biodiversity; and national and international agreements and regulations tightly legislate their use across a broad range of applications. Why, then, do GMOs continue to grow in popularity? Why do farmers in the developing world consider them game-changing tools to deal with the demands of making a living, or even a livelihood, from agriculture? And what's all this subversive business about GMOs being good for biodiversity?
Joseph Opoku Gakpo is an environmental journalist who writes about GMOs and other aspects of agriculture, the environment, and rural development. He is Ghana correspondent for "Alliance for Science", and was awarded the Ghana Journalists Association prize for Best Journalist in Poverty Alleviation Reporting in 2015. Joseph has a passion for sharing the struggle of farmers and other rural people, which is reflected in his refreshingly clear and level-headed style of reporting. In this illuminating discussion we talk about how GMOs got such a bad name; whether any of the allegations against them are reasonable; what they mean for poor people around the world; and what is the nature of their relationship with biodiversity.
Links to resources:
Ghana’s GMO conversation turns to biodiversity - A 2018 article by Joseph for Alliance for Science
Ghanaian scientist: ‘Africa needs GMOs more than the rest of the world’ - A 2022 article by Joseph in which he talks about and quotes one of the academics he has worked with
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety - Website for the protocol discussed with Joseph
02:09: What are GMOs?
04:17: Why GMOs are so controversial
08:20: The geographical chronology of GMO introduction
09:27: Why GMOs shouldn’t be shunned
11:41: What about impacts on health; terminator genes; and contamination of other organisms?
17:56: How GMOs can help biodiversity
20:00: Savings to farmers
25:00: The slow uptake of GMOs in some parts of the world and the targeted traits of GMOs
30:53: Changing perspectives on GMOs, and local champions of GMOs
40:25: Changing attitudes in Europe?
43:08: Does political polarization play a role?
45:57: The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety