Agricultural Biotechnology and Food Security: Exploring the Debate


Many claims and counter-claims are made about the potentials for new agricultural biotechnologies in improving food security, particularly in the developing world. This paper explores the various dimensions of the debate, looking at the assumptions of the arguments made by various protagonists and situating current discussions about biotechnology in broader debates about 'food security'. After looking briefly at what we mean by the term ‘agricultural biotechnology’, the paper turns to exploring the multiple meanings of the term, food security. A number of policy narratives are identified, emphasising perspectives associated with productionist, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, trade, agri-food political economy, access and entitlements and livelihoods policies. The paper then looks at the arguments made for and against biotechnology by various actors in the current policy debate, and how these link to different policy perspectives on food security. A number of positions are identified, each with different underlying assumptions and implications for policy and practice. The paper then concludes with a review of some of the key axes of the contemporary debate, identifying points of dispute and conflict.


IDS Working Paper 145, Biotechnology Policy Series 1. Brighton, UK: IDS. ISBN 1-85864-401-1, 39 pp.

Agricultural Biotechnology and Food Security: Exploring the Debate

Published 1 January 2002