Western do-gooders are impoverishing Africa by promoting traditional farming at the expense of modern scientific agriculture, according to Britain's former chief scientist.

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  • Posted by Maurice Websta on September 09, 2008

    Very interesting, and I think true. People forget that India and China raised food production by adopting NEW varities of crops, including many specially bred for disease resistance, less water use etc. GM foods are simply another logical extension of this routine process, and indeed they have improved on it significantly. Many new varieties require LESS fertilizer for example.
    In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, people also forget that African farmers adopted NEW and/or IMPROVED varities of crops like corn, peanuts etc, all foreign to Africa, and as a result boosted food production. GM foods are just another extension of this improvement and can bred to use less fertilizer, a key consideration given poor soil quality in much of tropical Africa.
    Trendy obsessions with organic farming fail to note that to feed much of the continent, such farming will NEED MORE LAND, which means more pressure on wildlife as their habitat is increasingly taken over by humans.
    Populations are expanding anyway- its not a question of if, but how fast. The question is how best to feed them. We can do it by using less farm acerage, or do it by letting more wetlands and other habitat be taken over by farming. Once way or another the expansion is going to take place.
    None of this matters to trendy green activists whose primary motivation is to feel noble about themselves. It is the ordinary African masses however who have to go hungry while comfortable Western activists and their allies engage in moral preening.

  • Posted by Lita on November 24, 2008

    The following is a collection of random thoughts addressing the original comment. Sorry if it doesn’t make that much sense: The Green Revolution in India has yielded its fair share of problems, and the methods that were applied there simply didn’t work in the parts of Africa that they tried them (they didn’t work all over India either). The IMF sponsored ‘modern techniques’ that had no regard for the traditional farming practices, land tenures issues etc and were usually inappropriate. The dependency on one crop, in the case of peanuts in much of west Africa has led to a deterioration in the soil for planting other crops, and is inevitably risky (consider the non-fair trade coffee farmers in South America and Ethiopia).
    The quality of the soil in Africa had been underestimated by non-African geologists and geographers who simply had no real or in-depth understanding of the geology of the regions that they were supposedly helping.
    There are many who believe that at the moment, there are still enough just about enough resources for everyone, and that war and politics are what’s starving populations. Farmers producing food only for export while their populations starve is still relevant issue. Besides, without considering the environment now, there will be no resource base for future populations. There needs to a balance.

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