When former UK environment minister Owen Paterson addressed the climate skeptic Global Warming Policy Foundation last night, his diatribe on global warming and demands to ditch emissions targets were based on far-fetched arguments. Greenpeace would undoubtedly call this “data manipulation”. But the environmental group has a problem. In employing similar tactics in its campaign against genetically modified crops, it has undermined its own scientific credibility and its ability to shoot down Paterson.
The group’s virulent opposition to GM crops, which it claims are a “threat to human and environmental health”, are no more grounded in scientific consensus than Paterson’s assertions on climate change.
Climate sceptics are undoubtedly dodgy data dealers. They argue, for instance, that the world has cooled since 1998. They don’t point out that 1998 was an exceptionally hot El Niño year, nor do they admit the extent of atmospheric warming in the 1990s and earlier. They deny that the temperature trend remains upwards. And they ignore continued warming in the oceans.
But Greenpeace cherry-picks data in just the same way in its campaign against GM. One of the most alarming claims comes from Indian activist and Greenpeace advisor Vandana Shiva. According to Shiva, 284,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995, and that most did so in despair as a result of the debts incurred from buying genetically modified Bt cotton seeds. Shiva accuses Monsanto, the company selling the seeds, of “GM genocide”.
A group of African and U.S. firms on Tuesday will announce an additional $7 billion in spending to promote agricultural development in Africa, nearly doubling an Obama administration initiative aimed at mobilizing private money to ease hunger and poverty on the continent.
The commitments — which are being made as part of this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and include a $5 billion pledge by Coca-Cola
President Barack Obama toasts African leaders in Washington DC during the on-going historic US-Africa Summit
to source more of its products from Africa by the end of the decade — highlight how U.S. food aid policy has shifted under President Obama. Rather than relying primarily on federal funds to support small farmers overseas, the administration has enlisted African companies and major multinationals to help address some of the development challenges Africans still face.
In an interview, U.S Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah said the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition — the private-sector-oriented program Obama launched at Camp David in 2012 — was attracting new investment “because this way is working.” “We have been able to do some extraordinary things to dramatically reduce hunger through the commercialization of the agriculture sector,” Shah added.
A new report by Chatham House, the London-based international think on global issues, has warned that Africa risks squandering opportunities to reduce poverty among the majority of her people amid a toxic debate about genetically modified (GM) crops.
Harvesting of drought-tolerant GM maize at KARI Kiboko, Kenya. With the ban still in place, Kari will not be able to deliver this high-yielding maize variety to farmers
The report, On Trial: Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa, published on July 21 this year says that the debate, which is characterized by misinformation, polarized discourse and politically-correct policies, has resulted into regulatory uncertainty, consumer distrust and weak farmer demand.
It advises that the crops are more likely to be taken up by a small number of ‘best bet’ countries with less disabling political conditions, lower levels of consumer distrust, genuine farmer demand and government commitment.
Kenya must fancy itself among the ‘best bet’ countries ready for the commercial production of GM crops, having built sufficient capacity to address the safety concerns often associated with biotechnology.
The National Biosafety Authority (NBA), the lead regulatory agency, has been in place for five years and has gained some experience approving genetically modified products for importation and cross-border movement of humanitarian assistance and relief supplies.