Does politics has a place in genetically modified (GM) food debate? “No", is the obvious answer. Politics and science are such sworn adversaries that they cannot eat from the same plate. Politics mainly thrive on propaganda, vilification, name-calling and personal gratification at the expense of the general good. Science is anchored on verifiable facts, it is objective, gentle, and seeks to make the world a better place for all of us to live. You cannot politicize science unless you fancy mediocrity.
One Jeffrey Smith, the author of “Seeds of Deception, " this week advised South Africans to avoid genetically modified food like plague. Why? South Africans stand to lose European beef and poultry markets if they feed their livestock on genetically modified food. To be on the safe side, South Africans should use conventional feeds. Pooh!
"There is a massive rejection of genetically modified ingredients in human food in Europe, and growing demand that animals are fed on conventional crops, " Smith told his audience. What a misleading advice!
Deliberately misleading the public on any issue is both morally reprehensible and abominable. Those who exploit the vulnerability of the poor for self gains risk isolation by the world. Why misinform to confuse? United States of America is a traditional grower of genetically modified food. The U. S. 's European beef markets have not shrunk as a result of cultivating GMOs. Latest statistics at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show beef and veal exports ballooned from 461 million pounds in 2004 to 615 billion pounds in 2005. The bulk of the exports went to European markets. Smith lives in the U. S. and ought to have made this clear to his audience. If he did so, I would not be here penning this article.
Europe, itself, is fast embracing genetically modified food. Last month, the European Union endorsed importation of genetically modified animal feed. Does Smith want to tell South Africa that Europe is shooting itself in the foot?
Already, farmers in five European Union countries, including France and Germany are growing genetically modified food. They have not lost their beef and poultry markets. In Spain, GMO Maize's harvest this year will top 50,000 hectares, all of which will be used as cattle feed. Spain's beef markets in Europe remain intact. They are not in limbo. These are hard facts and no amount of propaganda and grandstanding will change them. Let's be pragmatic when debating the issue of genetically modified food. This is the only way to help consumers to make informed decisons.
Debate on pros and cons of genetically modified food is a luxury to Africa. Somebody should not make Africa believe that it would lose oversees markets for growing genetically modified food. Africa cannot feed itself as of now. Women and kids are dying in Niger, Ethiopia, and Eritrea of hunger. Priority, now, should not be to grow food for exports but to feed the hungry and the malnourished. To scare Africa that it will lose oversees markets is putting the cart before the horse.
James Wachai is a communication specialist who uses his expertise to increase public understanding of science and technology, specifically biotechnology. Read more from James at http://www.gmoafrica.org