Biotechnology and Biosafety: Exploring the Debate and Public Perception in Developing Countries

Andrew B. Gidamis, Bernard E. Chove

Abstract


Biotechnology and Bio-safety have become the subject matters of national debate in many developing countries. Most developing countries are at different stages in harnessing biotechnology for their development.  Increasing awareness on the great potential of biotechnology has augmented the importance of biotechnology in developing countries. Most developing countries are realising the importance of biotechnology as the means of improving agricultural production, production of new drugs, foods, chemicals and degradation of wastes thereby alleviating hunger, providing cheap source of energy and improving the livelihoods of poor people. There is an ethical obligation to explore these potential benefits responsibly in order to contribute to the reduction of poverty, and to improve food security and economically valuable agriculture.  While there is not enough evidence of actual or potential harm to justify a moratorium on either research or field trials, or controlled release of genetically modified (GM) products at this stage, possible costs, benefits and risks associated with particular product should be assessed case by case. Particular care should be given to the way in which the precautionary principle is applied when making decision. It is equally important to consider risks arising from the option of inaction or “doing nothing”.  It is therefore, important that the facts, benefits and problems associated with biotechnology are realistically understood.  In this paper, emerging trends in biotechnology applications, bio-safety, public concerns and possible options for increasing public awareness of this key technology are explored in the developing countries.

 

Keywords: biotechnology, biosafety, genetic modification, risk perception, public awareness


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