Africa needs GM food, says top scientist

Science Editor,Steve Connor
Monday 08 September 2008 00:00

The Government's former chief scientific adviser will criticise anti-GM advocates such as Prince Charles today in an outspoken attack on those who believe organic farming will be able to feed the growing population of the developing world.

Sir David King, who once said that global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism, will say in a speech tonight that advanced approaches to agriculture, such as GM crops, are the only way Africa will be able to feed itself.

Sir David's views directly contradict the recent comments from the heir to the throne, who said last month that growing GM crops in the developing world represents the biggest environmental disaster of all time.

Prince Charles said multi-national corporations developing GM food were conducting a "gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong".

Sir David will deliver a lecture to the opening of the British Association's Science Festival at Liverpool University, spelling out the reasons why Africa needs GM crops more than organic farming.

"The problem is, the Western world's move toward organic farming – a lifestyle choice – and against agricultural technology and GM in particular, has been adopted across Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences," Sir David said prior to his speech as President of the BA.

"The position taken by non-governmental organisations and international organisations is to support traditional agricultural technologies. These technologies will not deliver the food for the burgeoning population of Africa," he said. "Suffering within that continent is largely driven by attitudes in the West which are anti-science and anti-technology. We have the technology to feed the population of the planet. Do we have the ability to understand what we have?" Sir David said the global population is set to increase by 50 per cent within the next 50 years and the majority of challenges facing humanity will be related to this growth, he said.

Bodies such as the UN Environment Programme support traditional farming techniques, which are viewed as natural and organic, Sir David said.

"It is astonishing that we are better able to land a spacecraft on Mars than deal with millions of deaths each year from HIV-Aids and malaria, and poor nutrition; or develop renewable CO2-free energy sources," he added.

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