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Gender Equality and New Technologies

Publication date: 
Thursday 1 January 2004
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Why is agricultural biotechnology an important development and human rights issue for women? This fact sheet highlights the importance of agricultural biotechnology for gender equality and development, focusing on genetic modification (GM). It illustrates some of its existing and potential uses in agriculture, explores some of the risks associated with GM, and identifies issues relevant to women's human rights.

The fact sheet first reviews the different uses of GM plant and animal research and uses, which includes improving nutritional quality and marketability of products. The author then goes on to question the implications of using GM products to meet the needs of the poor, arguing that it is problematic because social and political problems cannot be fixed by technological tools without addressing inequality. Another problem is that if Genetically Modified Organisms have a negative environmental impact, developing countries have fewer resources to remedy the situation. Finally, the fact sheet posits that agricultural biotechnology is gendered, because in rural areas, nearly all women are engaged in agriculture. Also, women contribute between 60-80 percent of the labour to food production.

As agricultural biotechnologies become more common, it is recommended that gender equality advocates ask what regulations are needed to ensure that women's rights and gender equality are promoted, what the real health concerns are, and if agriculture biotechnologies can be harnessed for economic development and gender equality. Another recommendation is to question if agriculture biotechnologies impact the quality of life, environment, health and safety, equality and rights of women.

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