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NOTE: The well known UK columnist Simon Jenkins recently wrote a piece blaming "greens" for the "biofuels" debacle and for not supporting GM crops, which he declared were the swiftest way to boost food production.
(The Cost of Green Tinkering is in Famine and Starvation)
Robert Vint has forwarded us a letter - see below - that he sent to Jenkins challenging these claims. Robert has also told us about the reply he got. In it Jenkins not only continues to insist that greens were the ones promoting "biofuels" but, while admitting that the issue of GM is a vexed one, claims that "chemical advances in agriculture clearly do increase productivity".
It's astonishing that someone of Jenkins' apparent intelligence cannot even differentiate between the productivity impacts of GM and agrochemicals.
What is even more revealing is that Jenkins has failed to produce an iota of evidence to support either of the claims he used to declare that environmentalists were responsible for threatening the world with famine and starvation.
But when you're throwing around charges like that, why worry about evidence?
Dear Mr Jenkins,
I am puzzled why you fail to mention in your article that
'environmentalists' have never promoted biofuels (except wood and used cooking oil) as a solution to climate change. For years FoE, Greenpeace & co have pointed out the harm that palm oil and other fuel crops are causing to the environment and to food prices - problems that economists and politicians are only now beginning to understand.
Biofuel crops, principally ethanol from maize, were promoted by the Bush government (that used to deny climate change) as a way to help US farmers to use the GM maize that they could no longer export due to consumer
rejection. The three big biofuel crops are maize, soya and canola - ie the three key GM crops that were once promoted as food crops by the US. The 'environmental benefits' were never more than corporate hype.
Finally, the claim that GM crops increase yields is without foundation. After decades of hype there is still no GM crop variety that yields more than its conventional competitors. The newly-published IAASTD report confirms this.
There are GM varieties that will survive very high levels of pesticides but these are of no use to African farmers that cannot afford to be
extravagant with agrochemicals. Most of the poor South African and Indian
cotton farmers who experimented with GM cotton are now bankrupt. This is why
Africa and Asian farmers are not buying GM seeds.
If African and Asian nations were permitted to grow their own food in their own way as they wish rather than being pressured by western governments to grow biofuels and animal feed for export to the west we would not now be
faced with famine and starvation.
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