King wrong over GM in Africa
2.Only GMOs and agrichemicals can 'feed the world,' don't you know? - GRIST
3.Small-scale farming is best way to beat crisis - Member of Scottish Parliament
NOTE: Good comments and a typically incisive piece from Tom Philpott (item 2).
1.KING WRONG OVER NEED FOR GM CROPS IN AFRICA
Friends of the Earth, 8 September 2008
Commenting on David King's comments that green groups are helping to keep Africa poor by promoting traditional agriculture over "modern scientific agriculture" like GM crops, Friends of the Earth International GM coordinator, based at Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Nnimmo Bassey, said:
"GM crops are often presented as the solution to hunger in Africa - but research shows that genetically-modified varieties do not have higher yields than local varieties. They are simply the means by which agri-businesses seek to take control of African agriculture.
"GM crops will completely destroy agricultural practices needed to feed Africa. The continent's agriculture is predominantly small-holder and family based and this thrives on crop biodiversity. GM crops, which are patented, will stop farmers from saving and sharing seeds - a practice that is of vital importance to millions."
Friends of the Earth's Food Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said
"David King's comments contradict the findings of a recent UN report which criticised the unacceptable environmental and social cost of industrial farming and did not find that GM crops are needed for future food production.
"Instead it called for scientific development to be combined with traditional knowledge and supporting small-scale farming for local food needs".
Notes to Editors
1. For further information about Friends of the Earth, please visit www.foe.co.uk.
2. For further background on Friend's of the Earth Africa's position on the food crisis see:
Statement by Friends of the Earth Africa at her Annual General Meeting held at Accra, Ghana, 7-11 July 2008: http://www.eraction.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=126&Itemid=1
Article by Nnimmo Bassey: A tsunami that was never silent: Africa, the food crisis and food aid http://www.eraction.org/publications/presentations/unsilent_tsunami.pdf
2.U.K. former chief scientist: Green activists 'impoverish Africa'
Only GMOs and agrichemicals can 'feed the world,' don't you know?
Grist, 8 Sep 2008
People involved in the sustainable food movement have been debating the best ways to promote what Wendell Berry recently called "local adaptation" with regard to food and agriculture.
The point is to shift away from a paradigm of relying on a fossil fuel-powered agriculture system to feed people living far away from the actual farms where the food is grown.
On the other side of this conversation are powerful interests who, under the guise of the imperative to provide food and nutrition to the world's poor, want to consolidate the grip of industrial agriculture over the global food system. Echoing Margaret Thatcher's old chestnut about corporate-led globalization as the only possible economic system, they declare that "there is no alternative" to handing control of food production over to Cargill, Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, and a few other companies.
In a recent article in Time, Bryan Walsh concluded that "Organic farming yields less per acre than standard farming, which means a worldwide Slow Food initiative might lead to turning more forests into farmland." Right.
And now former British chief scientist Sir David King has been using his bully pulpit to thunder against organics and in favor of GMOs, going so far as to accuse sustainable-ag advocates of helping "keep Africa poor."
These are knotty issues, and I've dealt with them before. Time's Walsh is essentially refrying an old Economist attack on sustainable ag, which I rebutted.
Walsh actually interviewed me for his recent piece; my perspective landed on the cutting-room floor. I essentially told Walsh that a) industrial agriculture has never proven it can feed the world; you've got millions of hungry people even in places where it's most established, like the U.S. and Brazil; b) industrial ag has never proven it can actually nourish folks; everywhere it is embraced, diet-related maladies surge; c) industrial ag will be hard-pressed to sustain itself much longer -- it's too dependent on finite resources like petroleum, natural gas, and mined fertilizers, as well as chemical pesticides, antibiotics, and concentrations of waste; plus it generates more than a sixth of global greenhouse gas; and d) decades of government policies propping up industrial ag will make it extremely difficult to switch over to new, region-based, locally adapted, low-input systems -- systems that could indeed feed the world.
As for Sir David King's tired calumnies, I've written about the so-called Green Revolution in Africa that he's championing as well. Sir David behaves as though "Western environmentalists" have somehow blocked petrochemicals, hybrid seeds, and irrigation projects -- the so-called "Green Revolution" package -- from establishing in Africa. That's wrong; these things established themselves Africa in the '60s and '70s, just as they were taking root in Asia. But in Africa, they largely failed -- they simply weren't adapted to local growing conditions.
Unabashed, Sir David insists that a second Green Revolution -- this one involving genetically modified seeds -- is the answer to Africa's food woes. Can he name a single genetically modified seed strain relevant to Africa that has actually raised yields?
Second, before he blusters about agro-tech as the only answer for Africa, he should look over the ocean to the example of India -- the first Green Revolution's greatest success. India has also embraced genetically modified seeds.
In the span of just two generations, industrial-scale farming has drawn down the water table to perilous levels across large swaths of India. Meanwhile, farmers on the GMO/agrichemical treadmill have been gripped by a sustained wave of suicides, attributed in large part to the severe financial strain from debt incurred from buying pricey inputs.
No doubt, Africa faces a tragic food crisis. But Sir David disgraces himself by presenting high-tech, input-heavy ag as a panacea. In truth, the "traditional" ag techniques that he treats so contemptuously have been systematically under attack for more than a generation, as the IMF and World Bank have pushed national governments to dismantle farmer-support programs.
For story: U.K. former chief scientist: Green activists 'impoverish Africa'
3.Small-scale farming is best way to beat crisis
The Herald, September 9 2008
Sir, David King claims "anti-GM attitudes prevent us from feeding Africa" (The Herald, September 8). Hard evidence is widely available that GM technology is expensive, destructive to the environment and leads to dependency on huge seed and chemical corporations. The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a body initiated by the World Bank and formed by UN co-sponsors, has concluded that data on a range of genetically modified crops indicate highly variable yields, greater in some places and lower in others.
While not ruling out safe GM crops in the future it rightly concludes that if the multi-million-pound investment by corporations in transgenic research and development had been applied to improving conventional methods of food production and distribution then the current world food crisis would have been more successfully addressed. The overwhelming conclusion of IAASTD is that small-scale farming and ecological methods suggest the way forward. That's why I lodged a Scottish parliamentary motion in June to welcome the UK Government's approval of the IAASTD reports without reservation as confirmed in a written Commons statement by Douglas Alexander MP.
I believe that 400 world scientists in the IAASTD are a formidable peer group to assess agricultural knowledge, science and technology.
Local action, in local hands using local seed pools applying empathy, not big-business diktat, would go a long way to feed the people.
Rob Gibson SNP MSP [Member of the Scottish Parliament], Wick, Caithness.