Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Discuss Importance of Agri-biotech

June 22, 2012

Biotechnology researchers presented the benefits of genetic modification in plants during the AfricaBio media dialogue on agricultural biotechnology held last month. According to the researchers, GM plants help ensure crop protection, decrease input costs and exposure to harmful chemicals and improve grain quality.

The researchers also presented legislative control of GM organisms that help ensure safe and responsible handling of GM crops in South Africa, as well as the results of a public perception study and the socio-economic impact of GM crops in South Africa.

Marnus Gouse, a researcher from the University Pretoria, presented the approved GM crops in South Africa: maize, soybean, and cotton. "Most benefits arise from education around the effective use of GM crops. However, farmers are pragmatic and will not use the GM seeds should the prices rise too sharply," he explained.

Michael Gastrow, another researcher from Human Sciences Research Council, discussed the impact of public perception on GM crops. "Public perceptions shape policy, meaning that science must engage effectively in public relations. Further, governments are often not involved in shaping public perception through information dissemination, which can also lead to negative perceptions if conflated with labor issues or ethical issues – issues that are often not connected to the topics being discussed." He also added that the relationship of the scientists with the media is important to ensure that science-based information is delivered to the public.