Our Editor-in-Chief's letter to the Editor of The Times.
6 Feb 2015, The Times, Letters to the Editor
Sir, I cannot quite agree with your assertion that GM technology is utterly safe (leader, Feb 4). It would be unsafe, for example, if it were used to put a gene for the production of a poison into a crop plant. In contrast, as with the insertion of genes into rice to make pro vitamin A (golden rice), it is utterly safe and of great potential good for the estimated half million children who go blind every year because of lack of vitamin A. Thus the debate must shift to the nature of the genes themselves and the benefits they may confer and away from the technological process by which they are incorporated into plants.
Editor-in-chief, Food Security
Sir, Wouldn’t the whole GM debate be defused if it were recognized that genetic modification is merely a technique which, like so many other techniques, may be used for good or ill. Thus it is the product that should be carefully scrutinized rather than the technique by which it was obtained. In the case of crop plants, wouldn’t it be good to alleviate the “hidden hunger” suffered by an estimated 2 billion of the world’s human population owing to vitamin or micronutrient deficiencies? This could be done effectively and safely by introducing the appropriate genes into the plants they eat.
Editor-in-Chief of the journal Food Security
Following up Clare Foge’s article (The Times 22nd May 2017), in which she advocates clean water as a contender for the focus of British Aid (but which is already substantially funded by Water Aid) and the subsequent correspondence, the two factors commonly advocated for raising the living standards of those in poor countries are agricultural research and provision of roads: the former to combat the pitifully low yields of crops in some countries, particularly those in Africa south of the Sahara, and the latter to allow farmers to get their crops to market. To these I should like add one other, the provision of ‘extension officers’. This is a term applied to experts who are knowledgeable about the husbandry of the crops grown in their area and can advise on matters such as soil fertility, irrigation (importance of water here), suitable varieties of crops and pest control. The provision of extension officers in Sub-Saharan Africa is meager with only 1 per 476 households in Ethiopia and even worse ratios in Kenya and Malawi, where they are 1:1000 and 1:1603, respectively. Surely here Britain could provide productive aid by training extension workers, possibly through a relevant diploma or postgraduate course at one or other of of our Universities as well as on location, and providing support in terms of salaries and the practical requirements they discover as a result of their work in their home countries.
Editor in Chief, Food Security
Published 30th May