Feeding the world

April 16, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Posted in International | Leave a comment
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Photo by Flickr user Roger B. (Creative Commons)

Well, that didn’t take long. I wondered how soon it’d be before the cheerleaders of genetically modified crops started emerging from their lavish, Monstanto-funded labs to make hay out of the current food crisis, but this borderline-rant from Henry Miller wastes so much energy assailing the UN that he kinda forgets to explain to the scientifically-illiterate among us why seeing melon-sized satsumas in our supermarkets is a really great thing. He doesn’t get close to addressing the concerns a lot of people have about the consequences of this technology.

First, although I still haven’t seen a decent argument against the fears of cross-pollination, that’s largely irrellevant. Why? Well, if GM were to be introduced on farms as part of everyday crop production, surely the crop yield and profit margins would be so high that before long it’d become as widespead as using fertiliser & pesticides. So if cross-pollination is an inevitable side effect, we’ll have set in motion a mutation of our food that’s impossible to reverse, and even if cross-pollination never happens, the practice would still be spread by force of economics, leaving only a few purely organic producers ploughing a lonely furrow.

Lastly, if the pro-GM argument is about not only feeding the world, but empowering it to produce for itself, are GM crops really going to help? Who’s going to be growing the food; poor black farmers in Africa growing crops for themselves and for the world, or filthy-rich Monsanto Megafarms on whom the developing world will become utterly dependent in order to live?

All that said, I’m neither a fundamentalist on the issue nor as informed as I’d like to be (argue about it in the comments if you like), but when the technology’s in the hands of so few, it’s easy to fear a corporatisation of farming that could hurt as many people as technology’s advocates claim it could help.

Photo by Flickr user Roger B. (Creative Commons)

Update: An opposing (and doubtless more informed) view can be found in this interview with Robert Paarlberg, whose new book argues that the west should help a somewhat reluctant Africa implement new farming technologies

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