GM foods will end world famine: expert (7/8/2006)

Here's a report of the actual speech made by the South African pro-GM lobbyist Jennifer Thompson to a biotech conference in Australia.

Quite apart from the patronising lies she continues telling about what happened in Zambia, to tout GMOs in the emotive and misleading terms she does as the solution to world hunger, is utterly irresponsible, not least as failure in the developing world can mean disaster for impoverished farmers.

As Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the head of Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Authority, has said, "The policy of drawing funds away from low-cost sustainable agriculture research, towards hi-tech, exclusive, expensive and unsafe technology is... ethically questionable. There is a strong moral argument that the funding of GM technology in agriculture is harming the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the developing world."


GM foods will end world famine: expert
The Age, August 7 2006

Problems associated with genetically modified food are only an issue in countries where food is plentiful, an African professor has told a biotechnology conference.

Professor Jennifer Thomson said when people were starving the advantages of stronger, healthier crops far outweighed the risks.

"When you live in a country where you haven't got enough food, it's all about the benefits," she said.

"If we want to feed African and other developing countries we're going to have to use new technologies."

The technologies would help to grow crops able to withstand viruses, disease, insects, weeds and drought.

"If we can improve soil fertility, have less loss to weeds, insects, diseases and drought, farms can be secure and farmers can move from being subsistence farmers to commercial farmers," Prof Thompson said.

The World Trade Organisation in May this year overturned the European Union's four year moratorium on GM foods.

But Australia and Europe continued to sit back amongst their mountains of food and urge the world to use caution when considering GM crops, Prof Thomson said.

Hysteria and misinformation out of Europe, she said, was still sending the wrong message.

"In Zambia they were told GM food would make them sterile," she told the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference in Melbourne.

"Bad mouthing" of GM crops had led to Zambia refusing food aid that had been genetically modified for fears it would affect the country's GM-free export status.

What was not explained to the Zambian farmers was that the US maize sent to Zambia was sensitive to African disease and any attempt at growing it would see the crop wiped out by Zambia specific viruses, the conference was told.

In the meantime at the current rate of production, sub-Sahara Africa was facing a cereal shortage of 88.7 million tonnes by the year 2025.

"Food is a very emotive issue," Prof Thomson said.

"But Europe can no longer sit back and urge caution.

"As European governments sit and contemplate the possible danger of GM foods, they commit Africans and those in other developing countries to years even decades of starvation."

Prof Thomson is the chair of the Board of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation in Kenya.

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