posted on Sep, 24 2008 @ 09:34 AM
Green activists 'are keeping Africa poor'
Western do-gooders are impoverishing Africa by promoting traditional farming at the expense of modern scientific agriculture, according to Britain's
former chief scientist.
Anti-science attitudes among aid agencies, poverty campaigners and green activists are denying the continent access to technology that could improve
millions of lives, Professor Sir David King will say today.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Europe and America are turning African countries against sophisticated farming methods, including GM crops,
in favour of indigenous and organic approaches that cannot deliver the continent's much needed “green revolution”, he believes.
Speaking before a keynote lecture tonight to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, of which he is president, Sir David said that the
slow pace of African development was linked directly to Western influence. “I'm going to suggest, and I believe this very strongly, that a big part
has been played in the impoverishment of that continent by the focus on nontechnological agricultural techniques, on techniques of farming that
pertain to the history of that continent rather than techniques that pertain to modern technological capability. Why has that continent not joined
Asia in the big green revolutions that have taken place over the past few decades? The suffering within that continent, I believe, is largely driven
by attitudes developed in the West which are somewhat anti-science, anti-technology - attitudes that lead towards organic farming, for example,
attitudes that lead against the use of genetic technology for crops that could deal with increased salinity in the water, that can deal with flooding
for rice crops, that can deal with drought resistance.”
* Case study: Thriving tobacco crop stubbed out by settlers
* Case study: Biotech bananas offer hope to family farms
Sir David, who stepped down in December as the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, will use his presidential address to the BA Festival of Science
in Liverpool to accuse governments and NGOs of confused thinking about African development.
“Solutions will only emerge if full use is made of modern agricultural technology methods, under progressive, scientifically informed regulation,”
he will say. “The most advanced form of plant breeding, using modern genetic techniques, is now available to us. Plant breeding needs to meet a
range of demands, including defences against evolving plant diseases, drought resistance, saline resistance, and flood tolerance. The problem is that
the Western-world move toward organic farming - a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food - and against agricultural technology in general
and GM in particular, has been adopted across Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences.”
His remarks will place him in direct opposition to former Whitehall colleagues. The Government endorsed recently the International Assessement of
Agricultural Science and Technology, a report from 400 scientists and development experts published in April, which championed small-scale farming and
traditional knowledge. The exercise was led by Professor Bob Watson, the chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Sir David said that its findings were short-sighted. “I hesitate to criticise Bob Watson, who I admire enormously, but I think that we have been
overwhelmed by attitudes to Africa that for some reason are qualitatively different to attitudes elsewhere.
“We have the technology to feed the population of the planet. The question is do we have the ability to understand that we have it, and to
deliver?” Sir David, who was born and brought up in South Africa, added: “I think there is a tremendous groundswell of feeling that we need to
support tradition in Africa. What that actually means in practice is if you go to a marketplace in a lovely town like Livingston