African crop yields lag well behind those of the world’s developed countries, and the continent’s food security is shaky at best. Starvation is an ever-present threat for many, and the impending effects of climate change loom ominously in the distance. But scientists have solutions, genetically modified crops that are resistant to droughts, pests, and disease, that, pending government approval, are ready for planting. Dismayingly, Luddite anti-GMO campaigners have smeared these potential problem-solvers as unsafe and unnatural, and as a result, to-date no African government has approved the use of GM crops. The Guardian reports:
[O]pponents have waged effective campaigns against GM technology based on misinformation and scaremongering. Consider Uganda, where the banana crop is under attack from pests and diseases, spurring the government to develop genetically modified, resistant varieties. Anti-GM campaigners have linked the technology to obesity, cancer and infertility and used images of deformed cattle to heighten consumer fears about health risks.
Unsurprisingly, public support for GM is low and politicians see only downsides in promoting the technology. Consequently, a proposed biosafety law to regulate and control the release of GM varieties has been suspended, and Uganda’s modified bananas remain at the field trial stage.
This is not a technical problem, but a policy one; scientists continue to churn out more robust versions of crops, only to find their efforts stuck on what the Guardian calls a “treadmill of continual field trials.” Every option has risks that must be weighed, but the anti-GMO activists don’t have a leg to stand on: Time after time, studies have exonerated genetically modified crops. Science says they’re safe, and that should trump the emotional and irresponsible opposition to the agricultural technology many greens continue to hold.
There are millions of hungry people, not just in Africa but around the world, who could benefit from genetically modified crops. Uninformed resistance is as unconscionable as it is tragic.