My students know just what kind of food system they want: a food system that isn’t based on industrial scale monoculture. They want instead small farms built around nature imitating polycultures. They don’t want chemical use; they certainly don’t want genetic engineering. They want slow food instead of fast food. They’ve got this image of what would be better than what we have now. And what they probably don’t realize is that Africa is an extreme version of that fantasy. If we were producing our own food that way, 60 percent of us would still be farming and would be earning a dollar a day, and a third of us would be malnourished.
That's Robert Paarlberg, talking about his motivation for writing Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa in an interview with reason's Kerry Howley.
I'm looking forward to some tasty, locally-grown and most likely organic produce flowing into my kitchen when the Durham Farmer's Market re-opens next week, but this is as good a time as any to point out that environmentalism generally and localtarianism specifically are luxuries enabled by the unprecedented affluence we enjoy in 21st century North America and Western Europe.
The simple fact of the matter is that there is no credible scientific evidence that the genetically modified crops (which constitute a HUGE portion of the American market, especially corn and soybeans) have detrimental health or environmental effects. And in fact, most of them are modified for the express purposes of reducing the need for chemical pesticides and maximizing yield (thus minimizing the ammount of arable land used.)
According to Paarlberg, the influence of (primarily) European NGOs has kept these technologies out of Africa, effectively keeping African agriculture decades behind the rest of the world. Exporting anti-GM hysteria to Africa isn't just patronizing and paternalistic, it's deadly.