Central to the debate on genetically modified foods is whether mankind, especially developing countries, can secure the benefits of genetically modified crops while most effectively avoiding any risks they may present.

In this review article, John H Skerritt (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) outlines the major issues raised by those opposed to GM crops: effects on human health, potential environmental effects and a less definable sense that genetically modified crops are unnatural. Issues that follow are labelling of GM foods (whether to label, which GM products to label and whether such labelling should be voluntary or compulsory), and whether labelling should be backed up by testing.

This review discusses the scientific and commercial motivations for development of GM crops, current applications of the technology in the context of the debate on safety concerns. The focus of much of the debate has been developed countries such as Europe, but it is possible that the technology could have the greatest utility for developing countries.