#GMCrops #Biosafety #AgroEcology
Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation
David A. Quist, Jack A. Heinemann, Anne I. Myhr, Iulie Aslaksen and Silvio Funtowicz
Innovation’s potential to deliver food security and solve other agriculture-related problems is high on the agenda of virtually all nations. This chapter looks at two different examples of food and agricultural innovation: genetically modified (GM) crops and agroecological methods, which illustrate how different innovation strategies affect future agricultural and social options.
GM crops are well suited to high-input monoculture agricultural systems that are highly productive but largely unsustainable in their reliance on external, non-renewable inputs. Intellectual property rights granted for GM crops often close down, rather than open up further innovation potential, and stifle investment into a broader diversity of innovations allowing a greater distribution of their benefits.
Science-based agroecological methods are participatory in nature and designed to fit within the dynamics underpinning the multifunctional role of agriculture in producing food, enhancing biodiversity and ecoystem services, and providing security to communities. They are better suited to agricultural systems that aim to deliver sustainable food security than high external input approaches. They do, however, require a broader range of incentives and supportive frameworks to succeed. Both approaches raise the issue of the governance of innovation within agriculture and more generally within societies.
The chapter explores the consequences of a ‘top-down transfer of technology’ approach in addressing the needs of poor farmers. Here innovation is often framed in terms of economic growth in a competitive global economy, a focus that may conflict with efforts to reduce or reverse environmental damage caused by existing models of agriculture, or even deter investment into socially responsible innovation.
Another option explored is a ‘bottom-up’ approach, using and building upon resources already available: local people, their knowledge, needs, aspirations and indigenous natural resources. The bottom-up approach may also involve the public as a key actor in decisions about the design of food systems, particularly as it relates to food quality, health, and social and environmental sustainability.
Options are presented for how best to answer consumer calls for food quality, sustainability and social equity in a wide sense, while responding to health and environmental concerns and securing livelihoods in local small-scale agriculture. If we fail to address the governance of innovation in food, fibre and fuel production now, then current indications are that we will design agriculture to fail.