The debate that has been going on for several years, particularly in France, on the wisdom of introducing and developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has polarized opinion among the various stakeholders, producing great distrust within the public on the topic and often helping to cloud the issues within the field. This is one of the reasons why Futuribles decided to devote almost all of this March issue to GMOs, hoping thereby to cast light on the ins and outs of this question for its readers by providing very diverse points of view on – among other things – the economic, scientific, regulatory, sociological aspects of the question.
Before going into detail on this enormous range of questions, Cécile Désaunay offers a brief insight into what GMOs are, the state of research into them and the prospects they might open up in the medium-to-long term. After reminding us of the definition of GMOs and the upsurge of research in this area, she outlines the main existing applications and the lines of research that have found most favour with industry (in its aim, largely, of reducing both production costs and the use of pollutants), agriculture, the food sector and medicine. She emphasizes the risks inherent in this biotechnology so far as the environment and human or animal health are concerned, before stressing the obstacles the sector faces and the questions raised by the concentration of research among a handful of big companies. Working from this base and judging in accordance with their own priorities and values, any reader will be able, by referring to the very informative articles in this issue, to appraise the costs/benefits/risks of the large-scale use of GMOs.