Friday, February 10, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake

After the World Trade Organization ruling that the EU and six of its member nations had broken trade rules by refusing import of GM food and seeds, African countries like Zambia are now claiming they will continue to resist.

What I fail to understand is why. Africa as a continent is starving. We are plagued by drought, disease, pests and rampant overpopulation. Children lie in the dust with skeletal limbs and bloated stomachs, dying of malnutrition, and their parents are refusing food? Africa begs the world for help, and then refuses it when it comes?

This is a true case where misunderstanding of science is actually going to mean lives lost. African countries as a whole are still drowning in magical, superstitious, unscientific beliefs - i should know, i live here. Where people still believe in witch doctors and curses, the ground is fertile for all kinds of fear-mongering anti-science. The fact that entire governments seem to have latched on to the lies of people who campaign against GM foods and crops is only going to result in their people continuing to starve and die. In Zambia, the lives of the entire population are in the hands of an agriculture minister who cannot be bothered to go and look at the facts, instead of believing the bullshit.

Here's the low down on genetically modified crops and foods: the procedure of using recombinant DNA to insert genes from one species into another is no different than the art of cross-breeding, which farmers and gardners have been practising for centuries. Oh, except for that it's faster. And it's safer. And its better regulated.

The advantages of using GM crops are enormous in Africa. Crops can be bred which are resistant to pests, meaning you massively cut down on the cost of pesticides, leaving more budget for more crops. And because plants that are bred to be pest resistent are only resistent to the pests that actually attack them, there is no fallout to surrounding innocent insects, no poisonous chemicals leeching into the soil to be washed by rain to drinking holes, no environmental impact. Now, you could do this with cross-breeding, taking 20 years and hundreds of generations of painful trial and error before by sheer luck the right gene gets passed into the cross, OR you could just select the gene you want and do it in one generation. The end result is identical. In fact, no, it's not, because you DON'T run the risk of also passing across unwanted negative traits. So really, there is no questioning which is the better method. At all.

Never mind that GM crops can be bred to need fewer soil nutrients, or can be grown in soil with higher salt content, or to produce crops that have a higher starch content. All of these make GM crops the best thing that's happened to Africa since, well, crops. But yet they refuse them? Why? Stupid scare tactics that say GM foods are less nutritious? Bullshit. That's like saying seedless grapes, or bananas, or kiwi fruit, or peppadews are less nutritious. They're all the result of cross-breeding, which is an identical (but slower) process. Or is it because they say that GM foods will result in a superpest that is resistant to all known pesticides or genes? Bullshit. It's biologically impossible for one bug to be resistent to all the antigens it has never encountered, and statistically impossible for it to have encountered all of them. Is it because African countries think GM food producers are going to dominate the economy? So what? Move with the times and the technology, and if you're not ready to do that, then stop asking for help.

People may think i'm not being very politically correct here, but don't forget that i live right in the middle of this nonsense. Africa sits in the dirt with her hands out, her children at her side, and she begs for help. Yet when someone comes by in their BMW and offers it, she spits at them? Even if she doesn't like having to accept charity from people who are better off, does she have the right to make that decision for her starving children?

I say no. No. Not in any way, shape or form. Sentencing to die the people who look to you for protection, because you are too stupid to find out the facts, is murder, plain and simple.

And when you are responsible for a whole country, it's genocide.


Blogger kleinbaas said...

Zambia's refusal to accept genetically modified grain has nothing to do with superstition over the dangers of GMOs - it's the onerous restrictions imposed by intellectual property rights owned by the companies producing them.

Seeds modified to produce non-fertile crops do nothing to alleviate the problem.
Patented genes can be transferred to non-GM crop varieties leaving a potential mine-field for farmers.

Accepting seeds which hand control of your food production to a foreign entity is just too dangerous. Call it bio-colonalism.

February 10, 2006 4:36 PM  
Blogger kleinbaas said...

bio-colonialism, even

February 10, 2006 4:37 PM  
Blogger moonflake said...

'hand control of your food production over to a foreign entity'

what food production? If Zambia had any kind of decent food production it wouldn't be asking for food aid. If you have already fallen to the level where you need to beg for food, you shouldn't turn up your nose at what is offered.

I would totally understand the reaction if the WTO was forcing them to buy GM crops when they have an overabundance of their own... but they're not, and they don't. They asked for food aid. They are getting it. No, it's not free and it doesn't come without conditions. But that's life.

February 10, 2006 5:10 PM  

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