GM Crops and Gender Issues

Summary of recent research on which proves that biotechnology generates more employment for females.

Year of Publication2010

The correspondence in the December 2009 issue of Nature Biotechnology by Gressel not only states that gender issues in rural settings have not been adequately addressed, but also asserts that weed control biotech can increase the quality of life of rural women in developing countries. Improved weed control is a labour saving technology which can result in less employment in a labour surplus rural economy. Often in rural areas, wage income is the main source of income and an important determinant of quality of life, particularly where employment opportunities are generally limited. Apart from soil preparation, planting and weeding, harvesting is also ‘femanual’ work that can generate more employment if yields are higher. Biotechnology can enhance the quality of life of women if the technology is associated with overall generation of rural employment. On the basis of these issues, we feel that Gressel presents only part of the story and that quality of life for women in developing countries depends not only on the ‘femanual’ work, but also on the incomes they earn. Hence, addressing gender issues in biotechnology requires rigorous analysis and a comprehensive evaluation beyond that carried out by Gressel. Here, we summarize two of the authors own recent research on the gender effects of insect-resistant Bt cotton in India, which proves that this technology generates more employment for females.

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