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Agriculture's burden of technological intolerance


Table of Contents:

  • The coming population burst casts a shadow over agriculture — a colossal feeding task looms with no precedent in history.

Who will feed the masses? Forty years from now the world will be home to 9 billion people. The coming population burst casts a shadow over agriculture — a colossal feeding task looms with no precedent in history.

Demography is a cruel science — filled with cold numbers and alarming projections. Take the calculation bowl and throw in a bit of death rate and a spoonful of birth rate. Add a pinch of natural catastrophe, a heap of war, and a touch of disease for good measure. Stir up the numbers and out comes 9 billion people by 2050. 

And yet, despite a 9-billion passenger population train only 40 years from the station, agricultural innovation remains under the thumb of red tape and ideology. “Sticking with tradition has its allure of comfort. But the dim light of doing nothing carries more risks than experimenting with new technologies. Let us act with courage and a sense of urgency. We cannot afford to be seduced by the dim light of technological stagnation,” said Professor Calestous Juma, a prominent African academic. Juma, in a speech titled “A Plea for Agricultural Innovation,” at McGill University in Montreal on June 3, ripped the inaction of bureaucrats and politicians. “Evidence is stacking up against catastrophists and skeptics as emerging economies become major beneficiaries of the biotechnology revolution.”


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Juma swung hard at Europe’s bureaucrats, leveling accusations of “petty, political mischief.” Twenty-eight nations grow biotech crops, but only four of those countries are in Africa. Africa is on the cusp of a transgenic black-eyed pea and transgenic banana (distinct from Golden Bananas), but political stonewalling has shackled the research. “The delays can be partly attributed to technological intolerance, much of which has been handed down by European anti-biotechnology activism.”

Interviewed by the Independent, Juma detailed the anti-GM pressure applied by Europe. “It involved putting diplomatic pressure on African countries saying that if you produce GM crops we will not import any agricultural products from your countries. Europe didn’t want to see GM material entering from Africa when it was saying ‘No’ to North American GM products, so Europe then pressured African countries not to grow GM crops. It was to the great detriment of Africa.”

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

Steve Savage (not verified)
on Jun 10, 2013

Well said. Add to that the fact that Europe is a huge net importer of food - mostly GMO corn and soy to feed to their animals in addition to the 30% of their wheat production that is used as feed.

John O. (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2013

Very good article! I just hope that the world will open its eyes to the growing food needs of an ever-expanding population, especially here in Africa where hunger is rife. Technological advances in agriculture should be encouraged.

ZeroSum2 (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2013

I agree this is an excellent article. One of the problems is perception - which becomes reality. It is always a little disconcerting for an uninformed public when they hear the words "Genetically Modified" - especially as it relates to their food. I am probably like most people - I think of some mad scientist on the loose. With all their money and expertise, people like Monsanto would do well to rebrand the issue. Take the fear out - by finding a simple way to correctly inform people.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2013

Well this is all good as long as you also make the statement that the same Africans are not going to die with a cancer 30 years from now...

VinceWyldeShow (not verified)
on Jun 15, 2013

Chris, you're a traitor to your class. Biotech is nothing but a bunch of Mad Scientists who think they are gods. Your industry is not needed. Companies like Monsanto cause hunger, they do not solve it.

on Jun 24, 2013

No need for name calling! What is needed are cold, hard facts; and a willingness to investigate them. I find the Institute for Responsible Technology quite full of facts. Explore their website sometime:

Here is an extremely informative video explaining the dangers of GMOs by Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director of Institute for Responsible Technology - "Everything You HAVE TO KNOW About Dangerous Genetically Modified Organisms.

Why This Talk Transforms

What is not shown is Jeffrey asking the audience at the beginning, "Please rate yourself from 1-100 how vigilant you are at avoiding genetically modified (GM) brands." Using a show of hands by category, most audiences fall in the least vigilant range (1-20). But by the end of Jeffrey's fast-paced multimedia presentation—EVERYTHING changes.

After the audience hears about:

The thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, accompanied by unambiguous photos of severely damaged organs in animals fed GM food (e.g. testicles actually changed color),
How eating a GM corn chip might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories (it's true), and
The heavy handed ways the industry covers up GM food dangers,
Jeffrey asks the final question, "Now rate yourself how vigilant you will be NEXT week at avoiding GMOs." The audience is transformed—ready to change lifelong eating habits on-the-spot.

This happens every time. At one medical conference, for example, all 250 physicians shifted to the highest category of vigilance (80-100) after just 26 minutes! The presentation is that powerful.

We know this video changes peoples' diets. And we know that with a few million people avoiding GM brands, the food companies would scramble to replace all GM ingredients (follow the tipping point strategic plan in the video). So please forward this email to your friends, post the video on your Facebook page or website, blog about it, or buy a stack of DVDs (as low as $3 each), pass them out, and run it over to your local access TV station.

The time for action is now.
Don't sit back, relax, and enjoy. Sit up, take notice, and reclaim a healthier non-GMO food supply.

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