Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beware of Vegetarian Trojan Horses

Photo: Sugar, one of Kenya's monocultures.

Apparently Kenyan farmers are going to grow new wheat varieties that are said to grow in poor conditions, heat, cold, floods, droughts, etc. The problem is, the article in question doesn't say if these are genetically modified (GM) wheat varieties or if they are produced using more traditional crop breeding techniques.

This is an important question because most of the claims about what GM can do are not supported by evidence (though they are supported by lavish and expensive publicity). Some GM organisms do relatively well in ideal conditions but fail field tests. And there is nothing that GM organisms can do that can't already be done using more traditional agricultural techniques, enhanced with recent innovations that don't involve GM.

When there is so much hype about something, there has got to be money behind it. If there is money behind it then there are people hoping to make a quick buck. Recently, an organisation was started with Gates funding called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGORA). Extraordinarily, it is chaired by Kofi Annan. What bundle of lies possessed him to take this position we'll probably never know. This organisation believes that Africa will be a lot better off if they have a Green Revolution of the sort that was experienced in India and other countries following the second world war.

Except that this time, the revolution will be 'assisted' by these expensive and unproven technologies. Of course, AGORA dither over the question of whether GM is or isn't part of their 'final solution' but you can be sure there will be plenty of parties looking for their big pay off.

But the biggest question over the pronouncements of the dubious 'visionaries' of AGORA is why they think the original Green Revolution was such a success. India may have enjoyed a few decades of high food production but they are now paying for it. Most Indian farmers are finding it impossible to keep up with the costs involved in producing food. In fact, most Indians are still poor and some farmers are so caught up in debt hundreds of them are committing suicide every year.

In addition, much of India's agricultural land is contaminated by pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, that played a big part in the original Green Revolution.

The last things Kenyan farmers need is more debt, contaminated land and further monocultures. They need greater diversity and self reliance. GM, or any costly technology, will only reduce diversity and self reliance. The champions of GM will tell us otherwise, just like the champions of fossil fuels told us that there was no such thing as climate change.

It would be far more informative if articles talking up some new scheme would make it clear what kind of scheme we are dealing with. Sphere: Related Content


  1. I think am gonna learn so much stuff on this blog. I also have an interest in international development.

  2. Hi Mama
    Whenever the Kenyan government mentions agriculture I think 'now is the time they will sneak GM in the back door'. The GM companies are gagging to sell their overpriced crap to anyone, especially starving people. And if someone can make money out of it, it will happen eventually. But there are risks so it's worth getting clear about them first.