Benefits of genetically modified crops for the poor: household income, nutrition, and health

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Abstract or Summary

The potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) crops on income, poverty and nutrition in developing countries continue to be the subject of public controversy. Here, a review of the evidence is given. As an example of a first-generation GM technology, the effects of insect-resistant Bt cotton are analysed. Bt cotton has already been adopted by millions of small-scale farmers, in India, China, and

South Africa among others. On average, farmers benefit from insecticide savings, higher effective yields and sizeable income gains. Insights from India suggest that Bt cotton is employment generating and poverty reducing. As an example of a second-generation technology, the likely impacts of beta-carotene-rich Golden Rice are analysed from an ex ante perspective. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious nutritional problem, causing multiple adverse health outcomes. Simulations for India show that Golden Rice could reduce related health problems significantly, preventing up to 40,000 child deaths every year. These examples clearly demonstrate that GM crops can contribute to poverty reduction and food security in developing countries. To realise such social benefits on a larger scale requires more public support for research targeted to the poor, as well as more efficient regulatory and technology delivery systems.

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