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Can biotechnology meet the needs of the poor?

Biotechnology in food and agriculture, particularly genetic engineering, has become the focus of a “global war of rhetoric” (Stone, 2002). Supporters hail genetic engineering as essential to addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in developing countries and accuse opponents of “crimes against humanity” for delaying the regulatory approval of potentially life-saving innovations (Potrykus, 2003). Opponents claim that genetic engineering will wreak environmental catastrophe, worsen poverty and hunger, and lead to a corporate takeover of traditional agriculture and the global food supply. They accuse biotechnology supporters of “fooling the world” (Five Year Freeze, 2002). This issue of The State of Food and Agriculture surveys the current state of scientific and economic evidence regarding the potential of agricultural biotechnology, particularly genetic engineering, to meet the needs of the poor.

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