Greens angered over C4 claims they 'caused starvation'

A Channel 4 documentary accusing the green movement of causing mass starvation in Africa by getting it wrong on genetically-modified food has been attacked as "malicious" and "ridiculous" by farm groups on the continent.

"What the Green Movement Got Wrong", broadcast this week, by the same channel that aired the hugely controversial "Great Climate Change Swindle" suggests that the Western green consensus against GM foods had impoverished the southern hemisphere.

"The programme suggests that were it not for the external pressure of northern environmental organisations, Africans would be happily eating genetically modified foods by now, and hunger would be a distant memory," said a statement from the African Biodiversity Network. "We oppose these ridiculous and malicious claims."

Several groups including Greenpeace, which called the documentary "comically misleading" and one of the programmes contributors, Adam Werbach, have suggested they may complain to British regulator Ofcom.

A storm of similar complaints followed the screening of the "Great Climate Change Swindle" when Ofcom ruled in 2008 that the channel had breached section seven of its code by failing to inform participants the programme was polemic.

Global feelings run high over the claims and counter-claims made about GM crops with agribusiness and biotech firms promising their products can end hunger, while their opponents portray them as "Frankenstein foods" that will enslave local farmers and wipe out indigenous seed varieties.

The documentary shown on Thursday saw a procession of dissident greens such as Stewart Brand admit they got it wrong on genetically-modified foods and, in the case of Mark Lynas, on nuclear power. But some of those interviewed have since complained that the project was hijacked by new producers and its content transformed into a narrow polemic.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said the production reflected debate in the green movement and denied deceiving Mr Werbach: "It was made clear that the different titles for the project at the outset were working titles.

"There was no intention to deceive him, the final title was only chosen and confirmed at the time of billing."

The UK broadcast has provoked fury among some of the leading voices in the African agricultural sector.

"It was an insult to the very people it purports to care about," complained Zachary Makanya who heads an ecological land use group in Kenya. "The programme did not include Southern farmers' voices, and implied that Africans do not have the intelligence to think for themselves."

The GM debate has been particularly intense in Africa which was largely left behind by the so-called "Green Revolution" that fuelled increased yields off the back of scientific breakthroughs made by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug. Before his death last year Dr Borlaug complained that Western-led anti-scientific NGOs were holding back scientists' ability to solve food insecurity.

In the opposing camp, organisations such as the UN's environment programme based in Nairobi have produced their own research suggesting that organic practices can have better impact on African harvests.

Mr Werbach, a US-based business and environment author, was one of the environmental thinkers interviewed in the documentary who later tried to withdraw over concerns at the direction it was taking.

On his blog yesterday, he objected to being cast, "As one of a handful of lifelong greens who now had come to believe that the environmental movement had gone terribly wrong and was, among other sins, causing mass starvation through its actions."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower