Carl Pray
Rutgers University
Robert Paarlberg
Wellesley College
Laurian Unnevehr
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This article first examines the political response to two crops that were nutritionally enhanced through conventional breeding— Quality Protein Maize (QPM) and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. In the next section, the political response to food crops—maize, potato, and papaya—which have improved agronomic traits through genetic engineering is described. Finally, we mention briefly the initial political responses to biofortified GMO rice, potatoes, cassava, and sorghum. To gain political support as well as extensive adoption by farmers, biofortification needs to be combined with attractive agronomic traits. These case studies also show that only GMOs have elicited a strong negative political response and that the consumer trait, biofortification, is not likely to make GMOs more appealing to activists and politicians. However, political opposition to GMOs can be outweighed by well-organized, politically powerful interest groups.

Key words: QPM, maize, sweet potatoes, papaya, potatoes, Africa, Mexico.