Knowledge for better food systems

A Bigger Conversation - website on food & genetic engineering

FCRN member Pat Thomas of UK campaign group Beyond GM has helped to set up the website A Bigger Conversation, which aims to bring together experts and thinkers, including scientists, academics, farmers, breeders and grassroots leaders, from multiple disciplines and multiple sides of the debate on genetic engineering in the food system.

This work is separate, but connected, to Beyond GM’s main campaigning work and is intended to have a different tone and to reach out to a different audience.

Pat Thomas says “We want to get beyond the usual top line discussion of whether genetic engineering in food and farming is good or bad, safe or unsafe. That’s not to say these things aren’t important – they are – but they can also be a bit of a cuckoo in the nest, crowding everything else out.”

The idea, she says, is to give some air and light to issues around genetic engineering and its intersection with the sciences (not just applied, but social and philosophical as well), corporate control, plant and animal breeding, citizen stakeholders, regulation, ethics, media and broader concepts of sustainability.

Beyond GM will hold a series of in-depth discussions, panels, roundtables, world cafés, summits and other types of gatherings on these vital issues in food and farming and invite commentary via the A Bigger Conversation website, which is building up a virtual ‘library’ of resources, links to papers, reports, articles and blogs.

View the website here. The initiative also has Twitter and Facebook pages and Pat Thomas can be contacted at

See also the Foodsource resource building block What is sustainable intensification?

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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