With the world shocked by rising food prices, and millions in the developing world struggling to get enough to eat, the problem of food security is right back on the world's agenda.
And with the world's population likely to rise to nine billion in the next few decades, feeding the world is going to become an ever-greater problem.
Are transgenic crops the answer to the problem, or do they, as Prince Charles has argued, threaten an environmental catastrophe?
What's the evidence on the success or failure of GM to date?
Thomas Deichmann is founder and since 1992 Editor in Chief of the bi-monthly German magazine Novo, published in Frankfurt. Since 1993 he has worked as a freelance journalist and researcher for numerous quality papers across Europe, including Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Focus, Die Zeit, Financial Times Deutschland, Die Welt, Brand eins, Suddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Die Tageszeitung, Ernaehrungsdienst (all Germany), Der Standard (Austria), Profil (Austria), Weltwoche (Switzerland), De Groene Amsterdammer (Netherlands), Trouw (Netherlands), De Morgen (Belgium), Helsingborgs Dagblad (Sweden), spiked (UK).
During the 90s, Deichmann's journalism covered international relations and the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. Since 1999 he has focused his research and writing on science topics, and modern biotechnology in particular. His investigative journalism and his "enlightenment" approach repeatedly cause international and national wide debates. He has appeared on radio and TV repeatedly. He has lectured at universities and journalism schools such as the Henri Nannen Schule (Berlin), Schule fair Publizistik (Cologne) and Technische University Berlin on reporting and journalistic standards.
He studied Civil Engineering at Darmstadt University and was awarded his diploma in 1989, spending some years working at Darmstadt University and as a freelance engineer.
Rob Lyons is a writer for the online publication spiked. Topics of interest include science and health issues, particularly the panic about obesity and the way food has been treated as a problem in recent years.
Robin Maynard has worked for over 20 years in the environment movement, starting as a volunteer at Friends of the Earth in 1985. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in April 1986 hugely increased environmental awareness and indirectly led to a full-time job tracking fall-out from Chernobyl with a mobile radiation monitoring unit. After various projects, Robin became FOE's Countryside & Agriculture campaigner from 1990-3.
From 1993 -4, he worked as producer/presenter on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today, as well as assignments for BBC World Service and Costing the Earth to Malaysia and India; reporting from Bhopal on the 10th anniversary of the disastrous pesticides plant explosion and travelling into Sarawak to investigate impacts of logging and palm-oil plantations. From 1994- 5, he worked as Campaigns Director at the Soil Association, before returning to FOE as Director of Local Campaigns from 1995-9. After a brief spell developing environmental content for Carlton TV's millennium programming and supporting Anita Roddick's campaigning interests, in 2001 he joined with a group of independent-minded farmers to launch FARM, where he worked until 2004. In 2005, he returned to the Soil Association in 2005 as Director of Communications, becoming Campaigns Director in May 2008.
Before becoming involved in environmental campaigning, he studied English at University spending vacations working at an agricultural merchants and farm in the Derbyshire Peak District. After University, he worked briefly in advertising, before escaping to a saner life, working as a tree-surgeon; later spending a year teaching in Egypt. On return to England, he went into volunteer at Friends of the Earth and his environmental career began.
Denis J Murphy was awarded a D Phil in plant biochemistry from the University of York, UK, in 1977. He then spent three years as a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the University of California and one year as a Royal Society Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. He has also researched and taught at the Universities of Munster, Germany; and Sheffield, Durham, and East Anglia, UK.
He has authored more than 250 research articles in international journals plus numerous books including: Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture; People, Plants, and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity; Encyclopaedia of Applied Plant Science; and Designer Oil Crops.
Denis has been involved in research and international consultancy in molecular biology and crop breeding since 1985, and was a Head of Department at the world renowned John Innes Centre, Norwich from 1990-2000. He is currently Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan in Wales, UK, where he teaches courses on botany and the history of agriculture, manages a schools outreach programme, and heads a research programme into plant responses to environmental stress such as drought and salinity.
He works as a government advisor in the UK and overseas where he specializes in the areas of agriculture, plant breeding, and biotechnology. For example, since 2001, he has chaired the Biology Programme Advisory Committee of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, which monitors and advises on R&D about this major global oil crop. He has broad interests in research and education and frequently participates in public debates on scientific issues ranging from stem cells & cloning to GM crops & organic farming. Recent appearances include the Hay Literary Festival and Abergavenny Food Festival.
I can debate and counter every argument Thomas Deichmann can deliver. He only gives basic fluffy information with no substance. Genetic engineering is not thousands of years old as GMO today is concerned/created. Plants do not use genes that are foreign to them (pig, human, virus, fish...). Man implants them, not Mother Nature. We are negative Thomas because you can't deliver hard, concrete data to substantiate your arguments.
Capitalism: nothing wrong with it, unless it dominates a single industry, such as Monsanto owning 90% of the industry.
The rice issue: it's called Golden Rice, idiot, and although it has some vitamin A, you would have to eat 5 pounds a day of it to just get the minimum allowable for humans. There are Non-GM plants that contain more vitamin A without having to eat 5 pounds worth.
World hunger: When? They have been using this worn out argument for too long. We no longer buy it. Show me your plan: I want a long term plan showing how, when and where. I have asked Monsanto for one. No one has ever responded. Why? Because they have NO intention of doing so. They want to go into Africa and poor countries only to grow and bring that harvest back to the US. Just watch and see if I'm right...
About new technologies: do more long term studies. You don't know if or what will happen. That's the point. Do all your technologies all you want, just make sure they don't cross contaminate other crops, that you don't sue farmers when it happens, that all the food grown in other countries stays there to feed those people who can't afford to pay you, be transparent in your research, do long term studies (some things are worth repeating twice), allow others to prosper, allow us to label GM foods in North America, if you harm the natural enviroment then you pay to clean it up. There. I've said it.
Why are we negative? Maybe we didn't want a food industry, that wasn't broke, fixed! We KNOW it's about money. We KNOW you push this because of profit. We KNOW that anyone that believes these outdated arguments for GM is either being paid by Monsanto or has NO idea or NO vision on what the future will look like should this "science" go unrestricted or unregulated.
April Reeves, Speaker, Activist, GMO issues.
GM crops cannot be great for our intestinal system. When you are modifying food ingredients, it takes years if not generations for the human system to adapt to these changes. One example of a change of diet affecting our body system is how our increase of eating meat has increased our rate of cancer. Back when we did not have supermarkets and hunting meant survival, most of our nutritional diet composed of nuts and berries. The only time you consumed meat was when you were able to take down a beast, whose process could take from days to months. If an increase of meat in our diet can cause cancer, then what will GM crops do to us? I imagine we will become like the sewer mutants in Futurama.
To back my theory up, in 1998, 'Rowett Research Institute scientist Árpád Pusztai reported that consumption of potatoes genetically modified to contain lectin had adverse intestinal effects on rats. Pusztai eventually published a paper, co-authored by Stanley Ewen, in the journal, The Lancet. The paper claimed to show that rats fed on potatoes genetically modified with the snowdrop lectin had unusual changes to their gut tissue when compared with rats fed on non modified potatoes. However, the experiment has been criticised on the grounds that the unmodified potatoes were not a fair control diet.' (reference from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food )
Even though this was an experiment from 1998 and I am sure we have better technology, I still fear that our bodies will not be able to adapt to the modifications quickly enough and our insides will look similar to that of the tested rats.
People should be more concerned with making our world less of a polluted place ie carbon emissions, smog, pesticides. If we could fix these issues, then we needn't have GM crops and we'll have natural, happier and healthier yields. In accordance to winterfred's worry about GM crops costing lots of money, with cleaner air, we needn't spend more money on these modified crops for we will have organic harvests as well as a cleaner Earth.
According to what I have foud GM crops are actually more expensive to raise. They also open the door to a whole host of problems such as patents and seed ownership. How can he say that technology needs to go foward regardless. He seems oblivious to the fact that technology marches ahead until the bodies pile up - only then do we modify how they are used. Perhaps we have finally gotten smart enough to take a look ahead for a change. It has been and always be about MONEY... feed the poor give me a break!