Climate sceptics exploit double standards of eco-warriors

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”.

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Why Nigeria needs biosafety law

On the 16th of October, the upper arm of the National Assembly through its joint committees on Agriculture and Rural Development and Science and Technology will engage stakeholders through a public hearing on the Biosafety Management Agency Bill, currently before it. The same bill had previously been passed by the 6th National Assembly, NASS, in 2011 but was not assented to by the president because of the fact that it was passed a day before the 6th Assembly Tenure ended.

The Bill is targeted at providing a legislative framework in the guise of a law to regulate the application of biotechnology. The bill, which is seen as a safety valve, stipulates procedure for application of the technology, risk assessment before adoption and use of genetically modified organisms and penalties for contravening the law.

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805 m still chronically undernourished, Africa worst hit

IFAD President: Prof Kanayo

IFAD President: Prof Kanayo

About 805 million people in the world, or one in nine, suffer from hunger, according to a new UN report released today.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2014) confirmed a positive trend which has seen the number of hungry people decline globally by more than 100 million over the last decade and by more than 200 million since 1990-92. The report is published annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

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New Cornell Alliance for Science gets $5.6 million grant

Participants at the global brainstorming session at Cornell University in February 2014

Participants at the global brainstorming session at Cornell University in February 2014

A new international effort led by Cornell will seek to add a stronger voice for science and depolarize the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Supported by a $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Cornell Alliance for Science will help inform decision-makers and consumers through an online information portal and training programs to help researchers and stakeholders effectively communicate the potential impacts of agricultural technology and how such technology works.

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New resource shows half of GMO research is independent

Those who follow the issue of genetically engineered crops have heard claims that there is little independent research on their safety for consumption or the environment. A new public database of research tells a different story.

The resource is the GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas (GENERA), and went public Monday 25 August 2014. The results show that independent peer-reviewed research on GMOs is common, conducted worldwide, and makes up half of the total of all research on risks associated with genetic engineering.

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Using the Genes of Israeli Wheat To Fight Climate Change

Searching For Good Genes: Tamar Krugman, the curator of the Wild Cereal Gene Bank in Haifa, is using the genes of wild wheat to breed a variety that is resistant to drought.

Searching For Good Genes: Tamar Krugman, the curator of the Wild Cereal Gene Bank in Haifa, is using the genes of wild wheat to breed a variety that is resistant to drought.

Climate change and population growth have agricultural experts throughout the world increasingly worried. In addition to the usual battles against pests and diseases, poor countries now face threats of food shortages, price spikes and the political instability those conditions can cause. Since the amount of land set aside for agriculture is limited, researchers are therefore eager to find new ways to boost yield, keeping prices down. And as part of that quest, scientists are increasingly turning to wild, non-domesticated wheat to search for useful genes that can be bred into commercial grain. Israel is a center for this new technology.

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The New Yorker exposes Vandana Shiva’s lies about biotech

What really drives Shiva's GM hate campaign?

Vandana Shiva: What really drives her GM hate campaign?

For years, media coverage of genetically modified foods (GMOs) has been dominated by simplistic ‘conveyor-belt kind of reporting’ of the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ type. So much so it is justified to argue that such journalism has largely been responsible for the confusion and controversies surrounding the otherwise safe and beneficial GM seeds and foods.

But the in latest article Michael Specter, a respected The New Yorker staff writer, finally breaks the mold with a fine interpretative piece titled Seeds of Doubt-An Activist’s controversial crusade against genetically modified crops. This is one of the most well researched and carefully analyzed pieces of investigative journalism about GMOs I have read in a very long time. It takes a good, hard look at one of the world’s most virulent anti-GMO campaigners, Vandana Shiva’s reckless and misleading claims against GMOs and tears them to pieces using facts.

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Africa should rethink its stance on GM crops

Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) Uhuru Kenya (Kenya) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) during state visit to Kenya

Presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) Uhuru Kenya (Kenya) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) during state visit to Kenya

As Africa continues with its sterile debate on alleged risks of first-generation genetically modified crops despite evidence to the contrary, leading scientists elsewhere tired of the hostilities have moved on to second-generation crop genetic-modification techniques.

The main reason why scientists have opted for genetic engineering technique is to allow them to generate plant varieties with desired traits more precisely, rapidly and efficiently than with conventional method of breeding.

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Africa Agricultural Initiative Gets $7 Billion Boost from Private Companies

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 toast Africa leaders in Washington DC during the on-going US-Africa Summit

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.

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Kenya: import ban holding game-changing GM crops amidst hunger, poverty

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 to be able to deliver this high-yielding maize variety to farmers

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.

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