Sunday, March 20, 2011

Genetic engineering in Africa

Here is a summary of a book from a year or two ago by Robert Paarlberg, called "Starved for Science", about the alleged effort to prevent African farmers from accessing valuable agricultural biotechnology. I have not read the book, but just the summary seems to conflate two different trends. On the one hand, the general decrease in agricultural development funding (which is real and has been led by the US, whose ag aid funding decreased to only a few percent of total aid over the last few decades), and on the other, a supposed conspiracy of bourgeois governments and NGOs to hinder GM (genetically modified) crop research (which is not necessarily real, and in any case does not apply to the US, which has been pushing often-inappropriate investments in GM ag research even as it decreased overall ag aid funding).

Here is an intelligent, nuanced review and partial refutation of the book's arguments, by a researcher from the excellent STEPS center. The major point of the review is that GM technology shows some theoretical potential to help with certain very specific ag development problems, but is not now nor should it ever be the only technology proposed to improve agriculture generally.

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