Food shortage is not the global crisis

Food shortage is not the global crisis, lack of access to food is the issue - say NGOs

‘Genome editing is not the answer to world poverty, because food shortage isn’t the problem’ according to a survey of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Genome editing is a rapidly emerging biotechnology gathering hype as a new tool which can be used to develop solutions to a number of global food security issues, vulnerabilities, and problems.

However, resistance to these technologies is well documented and the debate around agricultural technology has been heated and long-running, with the arguments by Greenpeace and NGOs against the technology, being frequently dismissed as based on ‘emotion’ and ‘dogma’.

As with earlier debates on GM crops, NGOs have increasingly become the subject of intense criticism from leading scientists who support genome editing in agriculture. The debates have provoked passion on all sides, but rarely have they led to a mutual understanding from both parties. There is now a danger that genome editing will be mired in a similarly polarised and intractable debate as the wider field of agricultural technology.

In the report ‘Why are NGOs sceptical of genome editing?’ published in EMBO reports, experts from the University of Nottingham, University of Exeter, and University of Sheffield examine why NGOs are so sceptical through a one-day focus group and nine interviews involving 14 participants from UK and EU-based NGOs.

The findings suggest that opposition to agricultural biotechnology and genome editing cannot be dismissed as being emotional or dogmatic.

Instead, the results of the study found NGO staff are sceptical because food shortages are not defined as being about lack of access to food, and they don’t believe intensive agriculture can address socio-economic inequalities. They are also concerned genome editing is driven by commercial objectives.

A full copy of the paper can be found here.

More information is available from Dr Sarah Hartley from the University of Exeter Business School, at

Access to NGO participants was made possible by GM Freeze, the UK’s umbrella campaign on GM in food and farming. For further information or an NGO perspective on the research, please contact Liz O’Neill, Director of GM Freeze on or 07811 211 404.

Date: 6 November 2017

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