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October 24, 2011

African scientist accuses Europe of food hypocrisy over GM crops

A leading African scientist has called on the EU and development organisations in the West to allow farmers in developing countries to make full use of genetically modified crops to improve their livelihoods and guarantee global food security.

Dr Felix M’mboyi, a scientist with the Kenya based African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, said: “The affluent West has the luxury of choice in the type of technology they use to grow food crops, yet their influence and sensitivities are denying many in the developing world access to such technologies which could lead to a more plentiful supply of food. This kind of hypocrisy and arrogance comes with the luxury of a full stomach”.

He said that while some genetically modified crop strains have been successfully tested in Africa, many countries on the continent were reluctant to cultivate them because they feared export bans from the European Union, and the withdrawal of development support in key areas of agriculture if they tried to make use of GM technology.

Transgenic drought tolerant maize, Bt maize and cotton, and transgenic golden rice, cassava, bananas, cowpeas and sorghum are all ready for deployment and cultivation in Africa, and would have a positive impact on farmers’ welfare and food security on the continent.

Dr M’mboyi will be giving a key note speech at CropWorld 2011, a global food and agribusiness conference being held in London on the 31stOctober – 2ndNovember. The event will be considering a wide range of issues relating to global crop production and food security.

“The developing world should be allowed to make an informed choice as to which technology to use to produce their food. GM technology should not be ruled out, it should all form a part of the mix along with conventional and organic production,” said Dr M’mboyi. “Due to decisions being made particularly in the EU, our farmers are not allowed to make the choices they desperately need to make,” he added

Dr M’mboyi argues that many African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and Nigeria wish to look at the GM option as part of their broader agricultural strategy in order to address future food needs. There are, however, major disagreements between African development organisations from the EU who oppose the introduction of GM crops into Africa arguing that food shortages result not from a lack of food but from an inability of poor countries to buy it.

“The alternative options offered by these EU organisations, including the increased use of organic crop production may not be viable in the medium to long term given that the continents’ population is likely to catapult to 2 Billion by 2050 necessitating improved technological applications in the continents food production systems. Clearly, biotechnology offers multiple benefits to African farmers,” Said Dr M’mboyi.

“There is a big challenge ahead for those engaged in the GM debate, particularly in view of the negative perceptions of GM technology by some EU organisations that fund development projects in Africa or facilitate trade agreements. The continent is left in a dilemma as to whether or not embracing GM technology will lose development funding and trade links with Europe,” he added.

Dr M’mboyi will be one of a number of international experts speaking at CropWorld Global 2011 who will be addressing the problems caused by a growing world population and mounting pressure on its natural resources. The conference, which is the only global event to embrace all aspects of crop production, will be examining how world agriculture can meet the challenges and increase food production by more than 50% over the next 19 years.
The conference, which will be addressed by the UK’s Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Rt Hon Jim Paice MP, as well as a range of speakers drawn from countries including Australia, India, The United States and Brazil, will run for three days from the 31stOctober to the 2ndNovember 2011 in London.

“We see this as a unique opportunity to bring together a group of international experts of the highest level to discuss, debate and inform those attending – and a wider global audience – how agriculture is going to meet the increased demand which will be placed on it,” said Clare King, CropWorld Conference Director.

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