Better politics for biotechnological innovations

9 September 2021

In a Commentary piece published in Transgenic Research, Alan Raybould, Innogen member and Chair in Innovation in the Life Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, argues that political leaders need to make a stronger case for green biotechnology in achieving food security and other sustainable development goals.

Despite the enormous potential of biotechnology to contribute to sustainable development goals, its application in agriculture and environmental management continues to be controversial. Environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) are often opposed to the use of green biotechnology and have a disproportionate influence on regulatory decision-making, constraining innovation. By focussing on controlling the risks from technology and failing to consider the potential benefits of GM products we are missing opportunities address societal (and planetary) needs for innovation.

Earlier this year Smyth and colleagues called for the removal of politics from innovations that improve food security (Smyth et al. 2021). Raybould does not believe that this is the answer; “failing to make a political case for the use of biotechnology will leave the field open for ENGOs to make the opposing case”. Instead, he calls for better political leadership.

“They [political leaders] should make clear choices about how sustainable development should be defined and the role of biotechnology in its pursuit; they should adapt regulations to foster the innovation necessary for biotechnology to contribute most effectively to sustainable development; and they should encourage responsible engagement with these ideas by civil society to build trust”, he writes.

Raybould A. Improving the politics of biotechnological innovations in food security and other sustainable development goals. Transgenic Res. 2021 Aug 5:1–6. doi: 10.1007/s11248-021-00277-4.