Monday, March 22, 2010

The Gates/GM Progeny

Some of the most deceitful and unscrupulous people in the business world want to exploit Africa and one of the richest people in the world is spending huge amounts of money trying to help them. This person, Bill Gates, considers himself to be a philanthropist. Yet he is party to efforts to tie farmers into agreements that will commit them to expensive farm inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, will probably reduce yields, will have significant health consequences, will increase dependence and food insecurity and will generally make things worse than they already are.

Someone who really wanted to benefit people in developing countries with a lot of money at their disposal could do many things. In agriculture, they could develop indigenous crops that are selectively bred to resist drought, flooding, increased salinity and other adverse conditions. In infrastructure, they could provide people with clean water and give them access to better and more sustainable forms of energy and fuel. This would also confer great health benefits. There are numerous things that could be done to improve people's economic conditions, their education and their skills.

But Gates prefers technical solutions, mostly ones that will make his foundation, along with some people connected with it, rich. Never mind that these 'solutions' will worsen the situation in developing countries, that doesn't seem to be a worry for this 'philantrocapitalist'. Perhaps he's just an old style capitalist in disguise. Genetically modified (GM) crops have been a disaster in developed and developing countries alike. His efforts to tackle a handful of diseases while ignoring the conditions that allow those diseases to spread will have few long term benefits. Just because he is rich, he shouldn't have the right to interfere with the welfare of so many vulnerable people, especially at the same time as claiming to be doing good.

Another article sees Gates as propping up a form of neo-colonialism. GM crops are an inappropriate, imported technology, designed for large scale industrial farming like that predominant in the US. Most African farmers are small farmers and they are the ones likely to suffer if they are pushed out of farming by GM. It's not the big farmers and landowners who can afford industrial scale farming that are suffering from food shortages. And those who are suffering from food shortages will quickly find that GM will not feed them, either. They are short of food because they are poor, GM foods will only increase the prices and reduce access further.

It's time that people realised that GM does not have any advantages for poor people, or even for relatively well off people. It is designed to make money for the handful of multinationals that develop the technology. And anyone who claims to be doing good by imposing GM on poor farmers in developing countries is a liar and an opportunist.


No comments: