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Unjustified Delays in Approving Biotech Crops Take Thousands of Lives, Say Researchers

10:12 EDT 31 Jul 2017 | Meridian Institute

A new study has found that delays in the approval process for new crops not only lead to costs via foregone economic benefits, but also lives, via foregone calorie supplies for malnourished children. In the new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the authors calculate the effects of such delays for genetically engineered cooking banana (matoke), cowpea, and maize for five countries in Africa. The team found that if Kenya has adopted GE maize in 2006, between 440 and 4000 lives could theoretically been saved. If Uganda had adopted, in 2007, the black sigatoka resistant banana, it could have saved between 500 and 5500 lives over the past decade. The calculation model used by the researchers includes economic benefits for producers and consumers, as well as the benefits of reduced malnutrition for subsistence farmers. The authors also considered the uncertainty policymakers face due to contradicting statements from lobby groups. Justus Wesseler, a professor of Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and lead author of the study, said, "Time is money, and lives! Reducing the approval time of genetically modified crops results in generating economic gains, potentially contributing to reducing malnutrition and saving lives, and can be an inexpensive strategy for reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating malnutrition by 2030.”

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