Professor: Politics of rich nations block food from reaching the poor

By Shawna Rowe

CIUDAD OBREGON – The food security problems of Africa can be traced to activist groups in rich nations that have prevented access to genetically modified foods, a Wellesley University political scientist said Friday.

Robert Paarlberg, a professor of political science, discussed the political issues preventing farmers in developing countries from using higher-yield crops.

Robert Paarlberg Photo by Shawna Rowe

Robert Paarlberg
Photo by Shawna Rowe

“When it comes to food crops, the gene revolution, in contrast to the Green Revolution, has not reached the fields,” Paarlberg said.

This lack of acceptance appears linked to the emergence of global organizations that simply did not exist during the time of the Green Revolution, he said. Global environmental groups like Greenpeace emerged only in the 1970s.

Uncertainty about genetic modifications spurred activists to push for regulations that now block GMOs from acceptance in many developing countries.

“All that is needed is uncertainty,” Paarlberg said, referring to creating public concern about a new technology. “You can get uncertainty by hypothesizing a risk that has yet to be tested.”

Confusion and fear about GMOs have been triggered by individuals in industrialized nations who remain skeptical, he said. They have scared people in positions of power, which has kept farmers in developing nations from accessing GM crops.

The problems of regulations have intensified in recent years, Paalberg said. He cited the example of Zambia in 2002.

During a severe drought, 1.5 million Zambians were threatened by famine. Since the food aid brought into the nation contained GMOs, much of it was disposed of before it got to hungry people.

“To anyone with a general interest in social justice, it should be clear what is happening,” he said. “The rich are getting what they want from GMOs while denying the poor of what they need.”

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