Improving the politics of biotechnological innovations in food security and other sustainable development goals

Alan Raybould*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


The unwarranted interference of some environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) in decision-making over genetically modified (GM) crops has prompted calls for politics to be removed from the regulatory governance of these products. However, regulatory systems are inevitably political because their purpose is to decide whether the use of particular products will help or hinder the delivery of public policy objectives. ENGOs are most able to interfere in regulatory decision-making when policy objectives and decision-making criteria are vague, making the process vulnerable to disruption by organisations that have a distinct agenda. Making regulatory decision-making about GM crops and other green biotechnology more resistant to interference therefore requires better politics not the removal of politics. Better politics begins with political leadership making a case for green biotechnology in achieving food security and other sustainable development goals. Such a policy must involve making political choices and cannot be outsourced to science. Other aspects of better politics include regulatory reform to set policy aims and decision-making criteria that encourage innovation as well as control risk, and engagement with civil society that discusses the values behind attitudes to the application of green biotechnology. In short, green biotechnology for sustainable development needs better politics to counter well-organised opposition, to encourage innovation, and to build the trust of civil society for these policies. Removing politics from regulatory governance would be a gift to ENGOs that are opposed to the use of biotechnology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransgenic Research
Early online date5 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Aug 2021


  • civil society
  • decision-making criteria
  • policy choices
  • public engagement
  • regulatory policy
  • trust


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