UN Regulation: Hindering progress of biotechnology.

In an effort to provide people with clean drinking water, the United Nations Economic Commission on Europe (UNECE) drafted in 1999 The Protocol on Water and Health. However, like other U.N. agencies, the Protocol in question has been criticized severely for having vague goals, and still worse, having no road map to decide the course of action to be taken.

Worse yet, there are other programs by the UN that have aggressively charted out their own road- effectively preventing the use of developing technology use of important tools that could help to meet the goals of the water protocol.

It is in this context, that an article by the World Politics Review highlights the obstacles created by the the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Convention on Biological Diversity and other UN bodies, in the promotion of beneficial technology such as “genetically modified” or gene splicing varities of crops. These plants have been specifically developed to help the growth of plants in arid regions, using lesser amounts or lower quality water, and reduce post harvest losses for agriculturists.

Even more astonishingly, these plants have , in at least 18 countries, helped produce higher yields, with lower inputs and reduced impact on the environment. Plant biologists have identified genes that regulate water utilization that can be transferred into important crop plants.

However, as Miller reports, the research for this particular variety of crops is being hampered by resistance from activists and discouraged by governmental over-regulation “including by the FAO agency that sets international food standards, and by onerous, unscientific regulation of field trials under the CBD. In addition, a technical working group of the U.N. Environment Program is currently considering whether to recommend a moratorium on all field testing and commercialization of gene-spliced trees. That would be a devastating blow to efforts to preserve biodiversity and to prevent deforestation worldwide.”

While it is understandable that there have been several varieties of GM crops that have failed to bring about the required results, this must not be discouraged, at least by the over regulation of the UN that has made the promotion of these crops impossible. As aptly stated, if nothing is done to remedy the situation soon, all that will “result is vastly inflated research and development costs, less innovation, and diminished exploitation of superior techniques and products.”

An opinion on the article can be found here.

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