The decision of awarding this year’s World Food Prize to scientists who were at the forefront of developing genetically modified crops has become the subject of intense controversy.
The World Food Prize is dubbed the Nobel for agriculture, and is meant to be awarded for increasing quality, quantity or the availability of food in the world. The need for such work remains vital given that one in eight people around the world is still suffering from chronic hunger.
Yet, the decision to award the prestigious prize to three scientists - two of whom are affiliated with agribusiness corporations (
Justifications for awarding these scientists recognise their contribution to producing higher-yielding crops, which can resist insects, disease and extremes of climate. Millions of farmers around the world are now using genetically modified seeds to grow crops.
However, the overall impact of genetic modification of crops remains uncertain. Agribusiness corporations like
Last year, a Brazilian court decided that
While promotion of agro-ecological techniques is considered capable of producing sufficient food for the world, farming policies favour technological solutions offered by transnational agribusiness concerns not only in developed countries like the US, but in developing countries as well due to the influence of development agencies like the
The World Food Prize itself was set up by Norman E Borlaug in 1984. Borlaug had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for having launched the ‘Green Revolution’, which vastly increased grain output, but did so with the help of large and middle-sized farmers, who could afford to invest in mechanisation and increased use of fertilisers and pesticides. Large-scale, single-crop farming techniques of the Green Revolution bypassed poorer farmers and had adverse effects on the environment.
The growing obsession with biotechnology poses similar threats. The role of genetically modified crops in fighting world hunger thus remains uncertain. But then again, if Obama could get a Nobel Peace Prize prematurely solely for his rhetorical assertions, even before he commenced his first term in the most powerful office in the world, why not award a prize to influential agribusiness corporations, which make similarly bold claims about the virtues of genetically modified crops.
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