“Do judges know better than mothers what their children should eat?
“In the Philippines, apparently they do. Or at least they think they do.
“Last month, my country’s Court of Appeals stopped field tests on genetically modified eggplants—crops that I would happily feed my own children and grandchildren.
“We’ve been eating GM crops for years. I grow them on my farm in San Jacinto during the dry season. They’re such excellent crops that I plant them on the 12 hectares that I own, and also rent an additional 3.5 hectares.
“I’ve also grown eggplants. They’re the leading vegetable crop in the Philippines, where we call them talong. They come in many shapes and colors, from elongated or rounded to purple, violet or green. Some even have white stripes.
“Mothers like me can cook talong a hundred different ways, but one of everybody’s favorite dishes is called pinakbet. Talong is a main ingredient, along with other vegetables, as well as fish or shrimp, all stirred together in a hot and delicious mix.
“If you were to ask Filipinos to pick their favorite Filipino plate, pinakbet probably would win the contest.
“I’m very concerned that the judges have ruled against a technology that would make it easier for farmers to grow talong and mothers to feed it to their children.
“If their decision had been based in sound scientific reasoning, then it would make sense and be accepted. Farmers don’t want to hurt the environment, and mothers don’t want to feed harmful food to their children.
“But the ruling had nothing to do with science. The judges simply reacted to the lies of activist groups such as Greenpeace, whose well-fed leaders never have to wonder about their next meal.
“Biotechnology is widely accepted around the world, where farmers have harvested more than 3.5 billion acres of it over the last 20 years.
“A few of those acres have been mine. I started growing GM crops shortly after the death of my husband. They helped me get my life back together and gave me the financial means to send my children to school.
“They also put food on the table. I mean this both figuratively and literally, because in my home we eat what we grow—and our GM corn uses exactly the same pest-fighting technology that the Court of Appeals just rejected for talong.
“This is ridiculous. How can a trait be acceptable in one crop but not in another?
“My personal experience demonstrates what scientists all over the world have said: GM crops are a safe and proven option. That’s what the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and many other groups have proclaimed, along with the National Academy of Science and Technology here in the Philippines.
“One of the latest voices to endorse GM food is Michael Purugganan, a Filipino who is the dean of science at New York University, a preeminent university in the United States.
‘When it comes to GM technology, [critics] ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus on the safety of GMO crops,’ he wrote in GMA News Online, responding to last month’s ruling. ‘Meanwhile, here in the U.S., I will eat GMO tortilla chips and eat GMO tofu. I hope to one day taste GMO pinakbet. And I do so fully aware that I have nothing to worry about.
‘I’ll take it a step further. Biotech crops aren’t merely just okay to eat. They’re actually better than non-biotech crops. They allow us to grow more food on less land, making them tools of conservation and sustainable agriculture. They also improve the health of farmers because they don’t require additional pesticide applications, which can be hazardous to the people who apply them directly to crops…’”
“As we begin a new year, we often express our hope for the future. In Kenya, there is hope that 2014 will bring a lifting of the ban on GM imports and mark the first time Kenyan farmers will have access to important tools of agricultural technology that have been withheld from them.
“One of the world’s great scientific hoaxes has been ratted out.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is that his false claims already have done enormous damage to the cause of food security—and it will take a big effort to undo the harm here in Kenya and elsewhere.
“The story began more than a year ago, when the academic journal Food and Chemical Toxicology published a shocking study by French researcher Gilles-Eric Séralini. It asserted that genetically modified crops—routinely grown by farmers and eaten by consumers—caused tumors in rats.
“…The future of food security in Africa and everywhere depends on good science. We have to grow more food on less land, at a time when climate change and disease threaten staple crops. In Kenya’s Rift Valley, grain farmers are watching a deadly virus cut yields by more than 70 percent. I, for one, harvested a mere 20 bags (about 2 tons) from one hectare of maize that normally yields 80 bags (7.5 tons)! Kenya now faces the stark reality of a shortage of over 10 million bags of maize, according to Minister of Agriculture CS Koskey. This significant loss of harvest due to disease could be minimized by the quick adoption of biotech seeds. Without access to GM maize seeds and the immediate lifting of the import ban on GM food, it is difficult to see how Kenya will avert a looming food crisis.
“We need more scientists like Norman Borlaug, whose centennial year is now upon us: men and women committed to safe advances in agricultural technology and food security, as opposed to charlatans who somehow manage to give even rats a bad name.”
Continue reading here.
“…Climate change is having a bad influence as well: Cyclone Phailin has dumped an enormous amount of rain on India, but last year we had almost drought-like conditions in many parts of India. The success or failure of our farming is monsoon dependent. The monsoons that traditionally provide normal levels of precipitation have become less dependable, and we don’t have precise weather prediction that would enable us to plan our farming strategy.
“All of this puts our food security at risk. In a nation of more than one billion citizens, the stakes are high indeed.
“If we’re going to be serious about producing more food on less land, then India must embrace agricultural biotechnology as part of the solution.
“We’ve already learned through experience about the benefits of genetically modified cotton. The success story of Bt cotton stands as a testimony to the robustness of the technology. More than 90 percent of India’s cotton farmers now use biotechnology because they’ve seen how it works. We need to adopt the same type of technology for other crops, just as the United States and so many of the other countries in the western hemisphere and elsewhere have done…”
Continue reading here.