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Can agricultural biotechnology help the poor?

Abstract

This paper explores whether there is indeed a benefit of agricultural biotechnology to the poor. It will first explore the definition of agricultural biotechnology. It will then talk about its history and application in the modern world and will finally conclude with a discussion of how beneficial it can be to the poor; focusing on developing countries and citizens that are in need of food aid.

Can agricultural technology help the poor?

The topic of this article centers on agricultural biotechnology. We must first define it. Agricultural biotechnology is the method in which we alter living organisms or parts of them in order to make or alter agricultural products to better crops. Genetic engineering is a part of agricultural biotechnology, and it is now possible to carry out genetic manipulation on almost every plant species. This entails all of the world's main crops.

In the 1950s and 60s, a noted economist named Theodore Schulz started a research project in the least developed nations. He argued that the small returns from farming in households would in turn create space for savings in the household among the poor. This would then be invested in skills and education. This would lead to the development of the nations from the inside out (Thompson, 2009).

Many scientists would argue that if one considers the biological output of developing countries and pit them against that of developed ones, would be put at a disadvantage. This is because farmers from developed countries are able to get more from their soil water and seeds than the ones from the developed countries. It is due to this that seven million farmers, living in 18 countries, grow genetically engineered crops.

Now the topic of discussion is whether agricultural biotechnology is beneficial to the poor. The benefits mainly consist of modifying the cropping systems that are used in the developing world. This helps farmer's deal with changes in the climate or diseases that affect crop yield. There is success in this field by the emergence of crops that are resistant to chemical herbicides and produce their own pesticides. This has been substantially adopted by the soybean farmers in Central America. The use of these crops has however, been controversial (Thompson, 2009).

The use of BT cotton in India by their farmers is an example of this. Furthermore, in the recent century the international rice research institute came up with a higher output of grain because of improved genetics. Increasing availability of trace minerals in crops is yet another benefit especially to farmers in developing countries because they grow their own foods. If they have access to these improved crops. It will improve the amount of nutrients that they intake as well as their crop yields. Trace minerals are necessary to the plants ability to resist disease. In fact, these modified crops will not deplete nutrient poor soils. They can unbind minerals in the soil so that the plants can use them. This makes use of a resource in the soil that was otherwise not available. These crops also tend to be drought resistant and do not need a lot chemical assistance.

There might be a lot of controversy towards the use of genetic engineering in crops. There are theories in that there may be little choice especially for developing countries in this matter (Thompson, 2009) .The technology treadmill demands that farmers have to produce more, and so there are little options left for the developing world. Therefore, it is helpful as it is necessary.

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