2.Africa needs GM food, says top scientist
COMMENT from GM Watch: The Government's former Chief Scientist, Sir David King, is continuing exactly where his dubious antics in the run up to his retirement at the end of last year left off.
The journal Nature pointed out then in a damning editorial that King's recommendation of badger killing to control bovine tuberculosis directly contradicted the most robust scientific study on the subject ever produced.
Equally unconvincing was his attempt to sell the nuclear option by suggesting fusion would be along shortly to finesse all of the industry's intractable problems. Exactly the same was being said of fusion back in the 1970s!
But it's with GM that King really hit rock bottom. It wasn't just King's ludicrous claim to a Commons Select Committee that Britain's failure to embrace GM crops had cost the economy up to GBP4billion. On the Today programme, King eulogised GM as the solution to feeding the world's growing population in the face of the challenges we face thanks to climate change.
"We're going to need to get even cleverer," he told listeners, "More crop per drop. And we need the technology that can deliver that, and in my view we have the technology, it's GM." He then gave an example of how a GM breakthrough had increased "grain yields already around Lake Victoria, very substantially". He explained that, "the crop yield goes up 40-50 per cent. Very big advantage." But on subsequent examination it turned out that this brilliant application of modern plant breeding had absolutely nothing to do with genetic engineering!
You'll note that in the articles below, King does not make the same mistake again of trying to offer any examples of how GM is transforming African agriculture. Instead, he resorts to vaguely asserting that "modern agricultural technologies can multiply crop production" as in India and China, but without giving any specifics as to what, where or when.
The reality is that David King's GM promotionals are less evidence based than an Iraq dossier.
1.Hunger in Africa blamed on western rejection of GM food
Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian, September 8 2008
The rise of organic farming and rejection of GM crops in Britain and other developed countries is largely to blame for the impoverishment of Africa, according to the government's former chief scientist.
Sir David King, who left the job at the end of last year, says anti-scientific attitudes towards modern agriculture are being exported to Africa and holding back a green revolution that could dramatically improve the continent's food supply.
King, who is due to give the presidential address at the British Association's Festival of Science in Liverpool this evening, will criticise non-governmental organisations and the UN in his speech for backing traditional farming techniques, which he says cannot provide enough food for the continent's growing population.
"The problem is that the western world's move toward organic farming - a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food - and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across the whole of Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences."
Last week, King, who is now director of the Smith school of enterprise and the environment at Oxford University, said genetically modified crops could help Africa mirror the substantial increases in crop production seen in India and China.
"What was demonstrated [there] was that modern agricultural technologies can multiply crop production per hectare by factors of seven to 10." But traditional techniques could "not deliver the food for the burgeoning population of Africa".
King said a recent report chaired by Professor Robert Watson, the government's chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was shortsighted. The report concluded that GM crops had only a minor part to play in eradicating world hunger. The research, based on the findings of 400 scientists, noted that food was cheaper and diets better than 40 years ago, but that while enough food was produced to feed the global population, still 800 million people went hungry.
"You cannot argue that Africa has hunger because it doesn't have GM today," said Watson. "We have more food today than ever before but it isn't getting to the right people. It's not a food production problem, it's a rural development problem."
King will also call for a shift in research towards tackling climate change. More effort, he says, is needed on solar power, which could provide enough energy for the world 10,000 times over.
2.Africa needs GM food, says top scientist
By Steve Connor
Science Editor, 8 September 2008
The Government's former chief scientific adviser will criticise anti-GM advocates such as Prince Charles today in an outspoken attack on those who believe organic farming will be able to feed the growing population of the developing world.
Sir David King, who once said that global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism, will say in a speech tonight that advanced approaches to agriculture, such as GM crops, are the only way Africa will be able to feed itself.
Sir David's views directly contradict the recent comments from the heir to the throne, who said last month that growing GM crops in the developing world represents the biggest environmental disaster of all time.
Prince Charles said multi-national corporations developing GM food were conducting a "gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong".
Sir David will deliver a lecture to the opening of the British Association's Science Festival at Liverpool University, spelling out the reasons why Africa needs GM crops more than organic farming.
"The problem is, the Western world's move toward organic farming a lifestyle choice and against agricultural technology and GM in particular, has been adopted across Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences," Sir David said prior to his speech as President of the BA.
"The position taken by non-governmental organisations and international organisations is to support traditional agricultural technologies. These technologies will not deliver the food for the burgeoning population of Africa," he said. "Suffering within that continent is largely driven by attitudes in the West which are anti-science and anti-technology. We have the technology to feed the population of the planet. Do we have the ability to understand what we have?" Sir David said the global population is set to increase by 50 per cent within the next 50 years and the majority of challenges facing humanity will be related to this growth, he said.
Bodies such as the UN Environment Programme support traditional farming techniques, which are viewed as natural and organic, Sir David said.
"It is astonishing that we are better able to land a spacecraft on Mars than deal with millions of deaths each year from HIV-Aids and malaria, and poor nutrition; or develop renewable CO2-free energy sources," he added.