The manipulation of genes in a wide range of organisms, from microorganisms to higher plants and animals raises many questions. These include the viability of the genetically modified organism itself, ecological and health issues, social and economic issues.There is already modification of a number of the world’s major food crops. Soya, maize and canola have been modified for herbicide and pest resistance, and constitute the bulk of commercially grown and traded GMOs and GM products. However, there has been no commercial approval of GM wheat in any country because of growing awareness of biosafety, increasing consumer preference for non-GM food, as well as fears of field and trade contamination that may adversely affect the wheat market.

Research and field trials on GM rice are taking place in some countries but again there is great caution and even resistance against commercialization, on the basis of insufficient scientific certainty on the environmental and health impacts. The impact on rice biodiversity is also a major concern for many Asian countries since the region is the centre of origin and diversity of rice. Associated with rice is the region’s rich cultural diversity.

Bt cotton, the other commercialised GM crop, has become controversial with reports of inconsistent yields and other problems in China, India, the Indonesia and South Africa.

While there has been public attention on some of the major crops (including crops engineered for pharmaceutical production), there is far less awareness on other GM plants (including ornamental plants and flowers), trees, animals, fish and microorganisms.There is considerable research on and field testing of many GMOs that are taking place without public knowledge, and often, without the knowledge of all relevant parts of a national government. Thus very few countries, especially developing countries, have had the opportunity to consider and weigh all aspects of gene technology and GMOs. This is necessary and urgently needed if the appropriate policies on science and technology, agriculture, forest management, biodiversity conservation and health are to be in place under the rubric of sustainable development.

[Note: In a separate page on this website, entitled “Traits in Agriculture” we post articles and reports that provide information and discussions on specific traits in agricultural GMOs.]

Global South Activists Appeal to 7 UN Special Rapporteurs on GM Wheat

Food sovereignty alliance from Latin America, Africa, and Asia approaches seven UN Special Rapporteurs for urgent intervention to block cultivation and trade of GM wheat HB4. […]

American Chestnut Foundation Withdraws Support for Defective GE Chestnut Tree

The American Chestnut Foundation has decided to withdraw its support for an experimental GE chestnut tree which has demonstrated growth and fertility problems and failure to resist blight. […]

Norwegian Scientific Committee Finds Many Risks with Proposed Field Trial of New GE Salmon

A risk assessment for an application to release salmon obtained from new genetic engineering techniques in an experiment in Norway had identified many risks, knowledge gaps and uncertainties. […]

GE Soil Microbes New Target for Agrichemical Companies

This report explains the potential risks of genetically engineered soil microbes and provides policy recommendations for their oversight as they move from the lab to the field. […]

Traditional Corn in NE Brazil Contaminated by Transgenes

A new study has found that more than a third of over 1,000 traditional corn samples collected in the semiarid region of northeast Brazil are contaminated with transgenes. […]

GM Fall Armyworm to the Rescue of GM Corn?

Since 2021, GM fall armyworm larvae have been released in field trials, in Bt corn fields in Brazil. This strategy attempts to overcome the development of insect resistance to Bt toxins. […]

Concerns over Gene-edited Teff

A US research centre has created a gene-edited variety of teff which Ethiopia may take up, raising unanswered questions over its safety, ownership, and impact on local varieties. […]

Calls for South Africa to Set Aside Its Approval of GM Wheat

This briefing argues that the South African regulators failed in the exercise of their biosafety oversight role to implement the precautionary principle, in granting approval for the importation of GM wheat to enter the South African food system. […]

Genetically Modified Animals: Ethics, Welfare and Privatization

Genetic modifications in animals accelerate the privatization of living organisms, the concentration of capital and the loss of autonomy of breeders, perpetuating an agro-industrial system. […]

India’s Push for GM Mustard Called into Question

Opposition to GM mustard approval in India continues, amidst questions over biosafety data and regulatory lapses. […]