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GM cotton reduces the need to spray
GM cotton reduces the need to spray

Press Release - 09 March 2007

Genetically modified crops are benefiting the developing world, says scientist

Genetically modified crops are delivering higher yields and lowering pesticide use, and it is people in developing countries who are amongst those benefiting most, says a scientist who will be speaking at the Bath Science Café next week (7.30 for 8.00 pm, Monday 12 March 2007).

Despite opposition to the use of the technology in the UK, evidence is growing that genetically modified (GM) crops could have huge benefits to farmers in developing countries where maximising yield is crucial to survival and high pesticide use is expensive, costly to the environment and has important health impacts.

Now, with an area 25 times the size of the UK farmed with GM crops since they were introduced, and with 90 per cent of the 10.3 million farmers growing GM crops coming from the developing world, farmers are seeing the real benefits as they change their farming practices.

It is small farmers in China and India who have been some of the keenest adopters of the technology because of the benefits it brings, says Professor Rod Scott from the University of Bath who will be speaking at the Bath Science Café.

“Farmers in developing countries who are using GM technology are experiencing higher yields of crops such as cotton and rice than ever before,” said Professor Scott, from the University’s Department of Biology & Biochemistry.

“A plant that has been modified to contain its own insecticide reduces the need for harmful chemical pesticides, which are extremely hazardous for farm workers and expensive to remove from the water supply.

“Initially environmental lobby groups told us that widespread use of genetically modified crops would have risks for health and the environment, but there was little evidence for this before or now, even though GM crops have been grown for more than a decade.

“Pressure group opponents of GM base their arguments on confused ideologies about what is ‘natural’ and refer to a tiny number of unreliable scientific studies to support their case.”

As part of his talk, Professor Scott will present a case for GM using robust scientific evidence.

The Science Café is an ongoing series of monthly events where some of the country’s leading scientists talk informally about their research over a pint.

The event will be held in The Raven pub in Queen Street in the centre of town. No tickets or reservations are required - just turn up at 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start.

Organisers will ask for a small voluntary donation to cover travel costs for the speakers. The next Science Café planned is ‘Drugs and shocks - do they work?’ on Monday 16 April.

To register for e-mail alerts about forthcoming Science Café events, contact Melissa Spielman.

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