It has been said that the SOYMB blog is anti-GM and that it questions the safety of genetically-engineered food. Not so. Our position is based upon the scientific evidence and we fully agree that GM food present no known public health risks. We also recognize that to a large extent many nations or have adopted anti-GM policies for reasons of protectionism to defend their own native agricultural industries. However, we are critical of the economic consequence for many small farmers in the developing world where giant corporations are trying to exert their marketing power in search of even greater profits by imposing near-monopolistic conditions upon seed, fertiliser and pesticide use.
But as we say, it is not all bad news with GM.
In Uganda, matoke - a type of green cooking banana - is a staple and the most important source of carbohydrates.
Disaster struck in August 2001, when the bacterial disease Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), which turns the fruit mushy and inedible inside, spread rapidly. There was up to 100 percent crop loss in the areas where it struck. It was seen as a major threat to food security of some 14 million people in Uganda alone.
Scientists looked to develop a BXW resistant banana strain using genes for "novel plant proteins" from the green pepper, but the technology could not be deployed immediately because of regulations.
Uganda's Biosafety Bill, necessary to establish a proper regulatory system for GM crops, was stalled in parliament, amid fears about the dangers posed by genetic engineering.
Filipino papaya farmers in Hawaii's fruit-growing Puna region, the emergence of the ringspot virus was a nightmare. Their share of the state-wide market plummeted and the virus was widespread. Once plants are infected, they can never recover.
Many farms were abandoned and the land no longer used when scientists began testing the new transgenic "Rainbow papaya." It worked by inoculating the fruit against the virus.
Scientists transferred ringspot virus genes into papaya DNA, so that the fruit would produce viral proteins that mimicked ringspot's viral coat. The plant's own defenses would kick back with an immune response before the virus could ever take hold.
The Papaya crop in Hawaii was given a genetic vaccination against ringspot virus It proved a salvation for many farmers, who had been close to being "wiped out." Scientists in Thailand, Venezuela, and elsewhere worked on replicating the Hawaiian story, tailoring it for their own specific types of papaya. But with pressure from anti-GMO activists, which included the destruction of research projects, the Venezuelan efforts ran into trouble. In 2000, the Venezuelan test crop was burned to the ground, and research there ceased.