EU member countries must stand up to biotech deniers, be on the side of science

Climate resilient, insect-protected, herbicide tolerant and high-yielding technologies will not only lesson farmers' burden but also uplift their livelihoods

Climate resilient, insect-protected, herbicide tolerant and high-yielding technologies will not only lesson farmers’ burden but also uplift their livelihoods

This week, environmentalists, who have long pitched tents in Brussels to frustrate efforts to get EU member states to make decisions on GMOs based on scientific evidence, are jumping in glee. They are happy at the prospects of succeeding to arm-twist parliament to vote in favor of giving member-states freedom to allow or not to allow growing of GMOs. They are using the age-old divide and rule tactic. It is appalling. Having failed to get blanket ban of GM crops in EU, the so-called environmentalists in Europe are now seeking easy ways of isolating countries in Europe so that they can intimidate them against allowing farmers to grow the innovative crops. One fails to understand how right-thinking members of parliament can allow themselves to be intimidated by such groups that have lost all genuine arguments against GM crops.

The irony is that EU is fast emerging as the largest consumer of GMOs yet their farmers are not allowed to profit from the boom. It is not that EU member-states are doing better economically. Most states are deteriorating except the UK, which unsurprisingly has seen sense and is standing up to the fringe groups opposed to science of modern biotechnology despite the scientific evidence. What EU states and citizenry must realize is that most members of these groups have only their interests to serve. For example, it’s now common knowledge that most ardent anti-biotech activists charge as much as $40,000 and premier world air ticket for an appearance! Most are natural born rebel who will oppose anything corporate and legal just for what to do. They oppose golden rice, biofortified sorghum, virus resistant cassava, maruca resistant cowpea all of which are developed by public research institutions as public goods aimed at saving lives of millions of people in developing countries who cannot afford daily servings of proteins and other vital nutrients. This is immoral and EU MPs must see it as such and condemn them instead of supporting them. The actions of these groups are largely to blame for slow adoption of biotech crops in Africa, China and India where innovative biotech crops are badly needed. They have made research, development and deployment of biotech crops so expensive to the extent only the multinationals they virulently opposed are the ones who can afford to develop one across the value /stewardship chain. Unwittingly therefore, they are helping the same multinationals they are opposed to because no amount of noise they make will start Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont Pioneer etc. from investing heavily on future agricultural technologies to help feed humanity and the process make some legitimate profits from it just like all other multinational investing in various areas like ICT, medicine, banking etc. It should prick the conscience of the EU MPs allied to the so-called-green parties that due to their dalliance with anti-biotech activists in Europe who have set up allies in Africa, only four African countries are growing GM crops  like Bt Cotton which would help revive the cotton industry in most African countries and help employ tens of thousands of youths languishing in poverty in cities and villages across Africa making them easy targets for recruitment by criminal gangs and terrorist masterminds. The world is a global village. What this means is that leaders must think about the global consequences of local policy decisions that they take. As  Mark Lynas says in his well-argued op-ed on China, that ‘there are many important debates about China’s future direction, but the central role of science in decision-making should not be one of them’ the same should ring true for African, Indian, Latino and European societies and leaders. But more so for African leaders where agriculture is the mainstay of the economies. The irony is that groups opposed to biotech who by extension are essentially opposed to science are using products of science to oppose science. For example, the email and the internet are the two most potent tools of used to organize global opposition to biotech by the antis. The newspapers, airwaves, Twitter handles, Facebook pages and blogospheres are full of myths, lies, subterfuge, mendacity and skullduggery as Prof Calestous Juma would put it, and not to mention baseless conspiracy theories about genetically modified organisms All said and done, what is the silver ling this dark cloud about to hover over EU? It is the hope of right thinking pro-science people, including numerous award-winning scientists from European Universities and research bodies that EU-member-states will use the opportunity to make science-based decisions and allow farmers to cultivate approved GM crops in their respective countries. The Spain and Portugal who had long gone against the grain by allowing farmers to grow GM crops are leading example. The UK is also emerging a shining example to emulate. Really boring is EU powerhouses like Germany and France that have refused to stand up to the greens and allow cultivation of GM crops. This is opportunity to show real leadership in EU for others to follow. Sadly, most sub-Saharan African leaders take cue from EU before they make decisions on many issues GMOs being one of them. 

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