Biotechnology and agriculture: facing opportunity and criticism of equal proportion

David Spielman, senior research fellow at IFPRI and PIM’s leader of the Science Policy and Incentives for Innovation research cluster, recently participated in the International Symposium on The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In his blog Walking the wire on biotechnology at FAO, David shares his impressions about the lively and sometimes heated discussion on the current state of agricultural biotechnologies and contemplates on what is needed to move forward and embrace “opportunity and criticism of equal proportion” faced by the agricultural science today. 

Despite the controversy, many of us settled into a tentative but comfortable consensus: one cannot simply dismiss a technology out of hand, and no technology offers a complete solution. A really big toolbox is needed to enhance the productivity and sustainability of intensive agricultural systems and improve the welfare of the poor.

I came away from the symposium with this final thought. Today, agricultural science faces opportunity and criticism of equal proportion. The way forward requires continued investment in scientific inquiry and R&D on biotechnology tools and products; relevant and rigorous assessment of their impact on productivity, sustainability and human welfare; and keenly informed debate on the cultural, political, and ethical role of science in society.

Read the full blog on the IFPRI website>>

Learn more about PIM's research on technological innovation and sustainable intensification>>


Featured image: A Nigerian farmer harvesting vitamin A cassava, a biofortified crop developed using marker assisted selection in crop breeding. Photo credit: HarvestPlus


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