The following is an except of an article in The Times (London) about the necessity of GMOs to the future of farming in Africa.
An even more dangerous foe than Robert Mugabe is stalking Africa. Early last year, a moth caterpillar called the fall armyworm, a native of the Americas, turned up in Nigeria. It has quickly spread across most of Africa. This is fairly terrifying news, threatening to undo some of the unprecedented improvements in African living standards of the past two decades. Many Africans depend on maize for food, and maize is the fall armyworm’s favourite diet.
Fortunately, there is a defence to hand. Bt maize, grown throughout the Americas for many years, is resistant to insects. The initials stand for a bacterium that produces a protein toxic to insects but not to people. Organic farmers have been using the bacterium as a pesticide for more than five decades, but it is expensive. Bt maize has the protein inside the plant, thanks to genetic engineers, who took a gene from the bacterium and put it in the plant. Bt maize has largely saved Brazil’s maize crop from fall armyworms.
However, influenced by European environmentalists, most African countries forbid the growing of genetically modified crops. This is a pity, because unless they change their attitude fast, they will face the prospect of using far more pesticides, which small-scale farmers cannot afford, and which come with environmental and safety risks, or suffering famine, relieved by expensive imports of food.
Fortunately, inch by inch Africa is changing its mind on biotech crops, though only South Africa has approved Bt maize. Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya are slowly changing their legislation. But bureaucrats with empires to build keep putting roadblocks in the way of change, and environmental pressure groups are campaigning to undermine the efforts.
Some years ago I spoke to the leaders of a large charity working with African farmers and asked them why they did not come out in support of biotechnology. They replied that they dared not do so for fear of retribution from the big environmental pressure groups, such as Greenpeace, for which opposition to biotechnology is a totemic issue when fundraising in Europe.
To read the entire article, please visit The Times website (free registration required).