A leading Ugandan economist is warning of heavy financial losses among banana farmers if they don’t soon adopt a genetically modified (GM) variety that can resist the devastating bacterial wilt disease. Farmers growing one hectare of GM bananas would likely earn an extra US$300 per year, while those who do not adopt the improved varieties […]
GMO: Hero or Villian?
Let me explain a few things about the GMO myth/ scam, since a few strong, emotional reactions against GMO crops were brought out by a previous post, Edible GMO cotton could supply protein to 600 million people daily — Genetic Literacy Project . The “NonGMO” food packaging label implies that GMO crops are somehow dangerous, but are they? Most of the fear is based on propaganda by anti-technology advocacy groups such as Green Peace and “Big Organic” organizations. Many companies that sell agricultural produce have been intimidated by these groups into adding the “NonGMO” label to their products for fear of bad publicity, protests and reduced sales. Even products such as salt and water sometimes bear the label, even though they could not possibly have used or contain any GMO crops. This intimidation strategy was adopted by activists when they failed to get the government to require “contains GMO” labels.
What is GMO and why are people afraid of it? Genetically Modified Organism, GMO, means that gene editing bio-technology has been used to insert or remove a specific gene in the DNA of an organism, (plant, animal or microbe) to enhance or add favorable characteristics, such as added vitamins or protein, insect and disease resistance, enhanced yield or drought resistance; or to remove genes for unfavorable traits such as bitterness or toxins. The previous post cited above is about removing a gene that produces a toxin in cotton seeds in order to make them available as a much needed high protein food source for man and animals alike.
For example, if a plant lacks a certain needed vitamin, a gene can be added so it produces the vitamin. None of the other characteristics of the plant are changed. Unlike conventional breeding, which crosses or irradiates entire genomes, sometimes with unexpected negative results, GMO only affects the specific trait needed. It’s the difference between a shotgun approach and a precision insertion.
Conventional breeding has been used for centuries to produce the food supply we have today. Cross breeding over generations changed corn from a plant with a few seeds to one yielding the robust ears we know today. Wheat, by similar method has increased yields, reduced time to harvest and improved disease resistance from the original tall, low yield, disease prone, area-and-season-specific original plant, so that multiple crops can be harvested each year in a variety or environments. Rice has been improved in similar ways. These improved high yield varieties (HYV) have saved millions of lives. Beginning in the 1950s this Green Revolution changed countries like India, Pakistan and Mexico from near-starvation, foreign aid crop importers into net exporters. None of the rights to these high yield varieties have been controlled or retained by “Big Ag” companies or nonprofit organizations.
So, why are GMO improved crops needed? Precision agriculture, (a better term than GMO), can go beyond conventional means to produce specific changes while leaving the other characteristics untouched. One special advantage of GMO is that genes from a different species can be inserted to add nutrients or other traits not present in the original varieties. Golden Rice is a good example of this. By inserting a gene for beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, from corn or similar species, the much needed but absent Vitamin A can be produced in rice. This is very important because Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness and death in people who use rice as the staple foundation of their diets. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A deficient children go blind each year, half of whom die.
Source: Black, Robert E, “Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences,” Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group, Lancet, January 17, 2008
Why Do People Fear GMO? Unfortunately, anti-technology groups, led by Green Peace, have opposed these improvements that could save the lives of millions, against any logical reasoning. They claim that Big Ag companies, specifically targeting Monsanto and later Bayer, retain the patent rights to these crops as a way to control farmers. Stories of low yields, crop failures, suicides of farmers and law suits by corporations against farmers abound; as are tales of serious allergies, health effects and GMO pollen “infecting” other crops. When investigated, they are all found to be false, unproven and irreproducible anecdotes aside. GMO crops are the most thoroughly researched and certified as safe plants on the planet. Any that are found to cause even mild health reactions are quickly weeded out and rejected.
At present, there are over 40 companies and nonprofit organizations producing precision biotech enhanced plants around the world. Over 40 countries have approved genetically enhanced crops as safe, including the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
The rights to most these seeds are freely given away to impoverished peoples, without any strings attached. The seeds can be saved from year to year, so that even control through economic means is false. Only hybrids require purchasing new seed from the producer each year. Hybrids are crosses between dis-similar varieties that do not breed true in subsequent plantings. GMO crops are not hybrids, and neither are the Green Revolution high yield varieties, which were originally crosses of very similar varieties, that breed true in subsequent plantings.
Environmental groups such as Green Peace have adopted this anti-GMO rhetoric as a cause celebre to cripple modern agriculture, which they oppose on questionable environmental grounds. The European Union has also taken up the banner in order to block agricultural competition to their subsidized farmers by agricultural imports from other countries like the USA, as well as by poor South and Central American, Asian, and African countries that grow any GMO crops. The internet is awash with outrageous half-truths, outright lies, and conspiracy theories so that the average person doesn’t know what to believe. Most people will choose the cautious approach and avoid GMO products without really understanding why. Remember, it’s all about economics and ideology, not science or actual harm. Meanwhile, it serves to keep impoverished countries poor, thus furthering the overpopulation and genetic inferiority myths.
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” —Mark Twain
“… shake off all Prejudice, nor harbor any favorite opinions: for, if you do, it is not unlikely Fancy will betray you into Error, and make you think you see what you would wish to see. Remember, that Truth alone is the Matter you are in Search after; and if you have been mistaken, let no Vanity reduce you to persist in your Mistake.
From chapter XV of Henry Baker’s Of Microscopes and the Discoveries Made Thereby, 1785.
Saving Africa from Lies that Kill, Chapter 11, “The Green Revolution and Precision Agriculture …,” has more information that could not be included here for brevity.
Over 110 Nobel Laureates sent a letter to Green Peace re: their support of Precision Agriculture in general and particularly Golden Rice. See “Laureates Letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs)”
My new book, Saving Africa from Lies that Kill: How Myths about the Environment and Overpopulation are Destroying Third World Countries is now available at bookstores and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, in print and eBook. If you like the book, please review it at any of the above online sites. Thank you.
Updated from original post Nov. 15, 2018
get out of the way!! UN & advocacy groups keep Africa and Developing Countries where the entire Preindustrial world was in the past
Much of Africa and the developing world are where the whole world was before the advances in technology and knowledge in the 19th and 20th century; the entire world was struggling, poor and sick, so that even the more well-off people had short lifespans due to preventable and curable diseases, poor nutrition and infections. In the developed world, widespread acceptance of germ theory and the development of antibiotics and vaccines only occurred in the early to mid 20th century. Malaria, meaning “bad air,’ was only eradicated in the developed world, in the mid 20th century due to 20 plus years of spraying pesticides for effective mosquito control, development of anti-malaria medicines and window screens. Likewise, malaria in poor countries could be reduced or eradicated by allowing proper pesticide use and providing malaria medicines.
Even into the late 20th century, some isolated areas in the developed world did not have electricity, purified water or paved roads and some people still lived in drafty shacks or log cabins, sometimes with dirt floors. Before the improvements in infrastructure, large multi-generational families were the norm because of high childhood death rates and the need for surviving children to care for their parents in a world where there was no social safety net for the disabled and elderly. Large families also filled the need for labor in a world where mechanical devices were few or lacking and back breaking work was needed for every job, whether agricultural, industrial or domestic. Without reliable electricity, transportation systems and industrial and agricultural development, we all could be back there now.
Source: UN Fund for Population Activities at https://www.unfpa.org/data
This is where rural Africa and underdeveloped countries are now. What will it take for developing countries to catch up with the developed world? First, we need to end counterproductive and damaging interference by international organizations that are working under wrong assumptions from the distant past about supposed overpopulation as a cause of environmental harm. Wrong practices include imposing population control and blocking effective insect and disease control, as well as modern agriculture and infrastructure development, while putting cultural and wildlife preservation above the real immediate needs of the people. Poverty, not overpopulation, causes environmental harm. Improving the economy can stabilize the population and preserve both cultural heritage and wildlife. Modern agricultural practices can end slash and burn deforestation and feed everyone.
Africa needs Investment, Infrastructure, Employment, Education and Disease Control.
Education in hygiene can end much of the disease burden, facilitate clean water and sanitation systems, and provide a healthy workforce. Education in agricultural, industrial and technical skills can open opportunities for employment, small business earnings and raise their standard of living. Transportation in the form of improved and extended roads and railroads can end isolation, encourage foreign investment and provide access to markets, employment opportunities, education and medical facilities.
Reliable electricity is important for economic growth and can facilitate the development of transportation systems, medical facilities and industrial investment, all of which cannot run on intermittent and varying power as provided by wind and solar power. Solar panels on huts are a start, but should only be a temporary energy solution until reliable electrical systems can be installed and extended into rural areas. Solar panels should never be used as a substitute for true energy security or an excuse for neglect.
Poor countries cannot afford to skip the reliable types of energy generation that have made the developed world what it is today. The solution should include all means possible, including hydroelectric, geothermal, fossil fuel and nuclear power. Africa has enough hydroelectric potential to supply all of their needs for the foreseeable future. Hydroelectric power is both clean and reliable. In Africa alone, over 200 hydroelectric dams have been blocked by environmentalists. This must stop!
Africa needs Investment, Infrastructure, Employment, Education and Disease Control.
Foreign aid must be replaced by investment in infrastructure. Most of the foreign aid is given to prop up corrupt governments. Leaders become rich while most of the aid is not used for famine relief or to build rural infrastructure and seldom reaches the people in need. Government to government foreign aid props up corrupt leaders, makes them accountable only to their donors, not the people, and prolongs poverty. Leaders that depend on foreign aid, not the tax base, are less likely to want to attract investment in new businesses or to invest in infrastructure that facilitates economic growth. As long as the problems are not solved, foreign aid money keeps coming, so corrupt leaders benefit from keeping their countries poor and controlled.
Foreign aid, other than temporary disaster relief, must be replaced with investment in infrastructure including extended electrical systems, powered by all means available, and improved and extended roads, railroads, airports and bridges, as well as education and medical facilities, and industry. The aim is to raise the economy so that poor countries no longer need outside help, but rather are net contributors to the world economy, or at least are self sufficient. It can be done and you can help.
What can you do? Lots! Here are a few suggestions from my book. Start by contacting government officials and elected representatives to demand that perpetual government to government foreign aid be replaced with accountable infrastructure investment, and that abuses by the UN and other organizations be eliminated and better practices be implemented ASAP. Donate to charities that help build infrastructure such as World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse. Volunteer to go and work with these organizations in poor countries. Invest in businesses/industries that are selling or buying African goods or are locating new businesses in Africa, or are offering real infrastructure assistance, or are improving medical and educational facilities.
My award winning book, Saving Africa From Lies That Kill: How Myths about the Environment and Overpopulation are Destroying Third World Countries is now available online and in book stores everywhere. In print and eBook through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million.
Award-Winning Finalist in the Social Change category of the 2019 International Book Awards
After reading the book, please remember to review it on Amazon; share it with a friend and do your part to end bad practices. Visit my blog for more information and to sign up for email updates at https://savingafricafromliesthatkill.com/ and like my Facebook page.
Read the first chapter free through Bookfunnel by clicking here
The Africa RISING program should keep working towards achieving wider impacts and building resilience for larger populations, USAID Bureau for Food Security program leader for sustainable intensification, Jerry Glover, has said.
Embracing good agricultural practices in lessons from the project has turned around the fortunes of Method Magoda, a 39-year-old farmer from Utengule Village in Kilolo District, Tanzania.