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Will Genetic Engineering feed the starving

A certain Dennis Avery is in NZ saying amazing things about organic farming and world hunger which upsets me no end. Having spent since late 1992 working in countries where famine and disease are regular calendar features, what Mr. Avery stands for sticks in my throat.

Mr.Avery is the Director of the ‘Center for Global Food Issues’ which is part of the Hudson Institute which gets its money “ ….mostly through grants and donations from U.S. and international companies and individual supporters. In 1998 ….. 95 percent of the organization’s revenue”

Mr. Avery is clearly a professional lobbyist and advocate for the GE and Biotechnology industry whose claim to hold the answer to world hunger is highly offensive when I think of communities that I have seen struggling to help survive.

Radio New Zealand refers to Dr. Avery but I cannot find a reference to a PhD on either the Hudson institute of CGFI web-sites.

There is another body of opinion which is more humanitarian and whose personal motives are clear.

Professor Amartya Sen , the 1998 Nobel Laureate for Economics and currently Master of Trinity college, Cambridge University said in an Associate Press wire in October last year.

“ …when looking at several catastrophes, famines have occurred even when the supply of food was not significantly lower than during previous years.”

And in his 1981 book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation

“… the explanation of the 1974 Bangladesh famine is that flooding throughout the country significantly raised food prices, while work opportunities for agricultural workers declined. Due to these factors, the real incomes of agricultural workers declined so much that they were disproportionately stricken by starvation.

Further in a radio interview last year Professor Amartya Sen said

“…. In all the modern day famines only 2 % of the population of the affected country were directly starving and the famine ended when the income ( of the starving ) was raised to the point where that could buy their own food again … the governments of those countries had the financial resources to simply pay a living wage to 2% of their population. And this would have ended the famine.”

Michael Maren, in his 1997 book The Road to Hell: The ravaging effects of foreign aid and international charity, sets out in detail how the United States grain mountain was used as a weapon during the cold war and now as a tool of foreign relations rather than feeding starving people

Alex de Waal, writes in great detail about the root causes of famine in his 1997 book Famine Crimes: Politics & the disaster relief industry.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is another ready source of research into food production capacity of the world.

I could go on and on with the references but I won’t.

Compare for yourselves the written output of Avery’s in his Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic: The Environmental Triumph of High-Yield Farming. The record of many GE and Biotechnology corporations that the Hudson institute lobbies for gave the world such products as Agent Orange.

Despite such opinions it is well known by everyone outside the GE and Biotechnology industry that we are able to feed the entire world population now and in the foreseeable future.

Starving people have few choices and no power. They primarily need access to affordable food.

AUTHOR NOTE - Phil Doherty is a former worker for international aid agency Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and has developed a new New Zealand web-site based on the principles of context analysis. See...


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