Greens Accused of Causing Mass Starvation In Africa

It’s a story we’ve heard before. Over-blown Western environmentalist doomcrying kills millions; this time it’s genetically modified food:

“What the Green Movement Got Wrong”, broadcast this week, by the same channel that aired the hugely controversial “Great Climate Change Swindle” suggests that the Western green consensus against GM foods had impoverished the southern hemisphere.

“The [Channel 4] programme suggests that were it not for the external pressure of northern environmental organisations, Africans would be happily eating genetically modified foods by now, and hunger would be a distant memory,” said a statement from the African Biodiversity Network. “We oppose these ridiculous and malicious claims.” …

The GM debate has been particularly intense in Africa which was largely left behind by the so-called “Green Revolution” that fuelled increased yields off the back of scientific breakthroughs made by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug. Before his death last year Dr Borlaug complained that Western-led anti-scientific NGOs were holding back scientists’ ability to solve food insecurity.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Climate Change, Environment,
Dodd Harris
About Dodd Harris
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He contributed over 650 pieces to OTB between May 2007 and September 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Amuk3.


  1. john personna says:

    Borlaug’s Green Revolution predates genetically modified crops, FWIW.

  2. Jim Henley says:

    It’s a story we’ve heard before because right-wing bullshit is perennial, shameless and drawn to recapitulate a few favorite genres.

  3. Mithras says:

    Did you know that Rachel Carson caused the deaths of millions by getting DDT banned??

    Refuting all the fake conservative scandals would be a full-time job. Problem is that right-wingers lie faster than honest people can tell the truth.

  4. Justin Bowen says:

    The irony of the anti-GM food campaign is that billions of people throughout history have eaten, are eating, and will continue to eat GM food, regardless of what successes the Greens might have.

    Corn is not a naturally-occurring plant. It was first genetically-modified by Mesoamericans from unknown origins thousands of years ago. Without human cultivation, corn would most likely not even exist today as, among other reasons (like its susceptibility to drought, pest damage, and simply being out-competed for limited nutrients and water due to its poor root system), one of its unique features is that its seeds don’t naturally fall to the ground but rather have to be plucked from the plant by a third-party.

    And yet, despite the fact that it’s definitely not “natural”, we still eat corn and corn by-products and do so at an ever-increasing rate. It’s really time for environmentalists and all the other nuts who are against GM foods to face reality: they’re here and they’re here to stay. Us genetically-modifying crops and animals to increase yields is no worse than Mesoamericans gentically-modifying corn from whatever they cultivated it from to provide a source of food for themselves. And on top of that, it’s completely ridiculous to worry about the effect that GM foods will have on the environment for the sake of the environment. Short-term environmental changes measured in months, years, centuries, and millenniums are meaningless to the planet. Life’s time scale is much greater (by many times) than man’s time scale. Life’s time scale is measured in ages and epochs and eras (million-year and ten million-year and hundred million-year time periods). Earth’s time scale, which is even larger, is measured in eons (billion-year time periods). Any damage that we do to the planet is likely to not even be noticeable in Earth’s future. It’s completely pointless to worry about environmental damage caused by GM foods because it’s likely that nothing of anything that’s here now will be here in Earth’s future simply because of the natural changes that the planet undergoes.

  5. anjin-san says:

    I am pretty sure Al Gore beheaded all those people and buried them in the Arizona desert…

  6. john personna says:

    Justin, sometimes the way they “increase yield” is by putting toxins into the crops, to reduce pest damage. They want us to believe their scientists that those same toxins are not bad for us.

    There’s something a little too “big tobacco” about that.

  7. john personna says:

    (I’m not worried about what those toxins do in the next million years ;-), just the next 50 or so.)

  8. TG Chicago says:

    Isn’t a resistance to genetically-modified foods actually a classically conservative position?

  9. John Personna says:

    Somehow liberals got good food when issues were divided 😉

  10. Justin Bowen says:

    (I’m not worried about what those toxins do in the next million years ;-), just the next 50 or so.)

    Why? It’s not likely that you’re going to have any effect on national policies in your lifetime. Why worry about something you can’t change?

    One of the common complaints about people living in third-world countries (though I’m not sure what is meant by third-world anymore) that I’ve heard from people who’ve done missionary and Peace Corps work is that the people there don’t like to work hard; that they spend too much time sleeping, eating, partying, and having sex. So what? Since when did enjoying life become such a bad thing (do any of you parents ever stop to think about what lessons you’re teaching your kids when you tell them to stop playing around)? My cousins in Paraguay and Argentina hate coming here (to the US) because they say we don’t know how to have fun. You know what? We don’t (nobody knows how to party like Latin Americans)! We’re all too worried about stuff that, in the end, really doesn’t matter all that much. We’re all only going to be here for a very short time. Worrying about dying in old age because of toxins introduced into crops is ridiculous (people have been using toxins in foods for decades now and the average age of death during that time has risen dramatically). Smoke a joint, drink a beer or twenty, stop worrying about stuff that really doesn’t matter, and live life!

  11. Herb says:

    “sometimes the way they “increase yield” is by putting toxins into the crops”

    That’s true, but the toxins are meant for pests. If we’re talking BT crops, the problem isn’t the toxins. They work all too well. The problem is natural selection. The toxins kill all the pests…..except for the pests who have resistance to the toxins. Those pests breed and breed and breed and sooner or later, the GM crops become less effective in combating them. (Same principle as anti-biotic resistance.)

    With that said, this “greens caused mass starvation” nonsense is ridiculous. Is Africa starving because the greens are denying them GM crops? Or because their own shakey governments and criminal militias are denying them regular crops?

  12. Justin Bowen says:

    Is Africa starving

    Is Africa starving?

    First, there are no reliable statistics on how many people are and aren’t hungry. Some people say that one-in-four children (over 16 million) in the US go hungry at some point during their childhood. Others put the entire number of hungry people for the entire developed world at 19 million. Whose statistics are right and whose are wrong?

    Second, Africa is a huge place. I know it doesn’t seem like it when you look at certain maps, but it is. There are over 800 million people living in dozens sub-Saharan Africa countries alone. Each country is different. Talking about Africa as if everyone living there is in the same boat would be like talking about Asia as if everyone living there is in the same boat. It’s ridiculous.

    Third, what constitutes hunger? The amount of money in dollars that individuals spend on food. The percentage of individual incomes spent on food? The number of calories consumed? The number of nutritious calories – as opposed to the number of calories in general, which includes empty calories (which I’m willing to bet accounts for the majority of those consumed by Americans) – consumed by individuals? Without a clear definition of what hunger is and isn’t, there’s nowhere to even begin. People in some African countries spend far less in terms of dollars and a much larger percentage of their incomes on food but still manage to get more than 2000 calories per day. Americans spend far more than most on food but a much smaller percentage of their incomes than most and manage to get far more than 2000 calories per day. I’d be willing to bet that plenty of people in other countries consume far fewer calories than Americans, pay much less for them, and spend much more of their incomes on them but are still getting more nutrition than most Americans.

    It’s difficult in general to talk about hunger and impossible to talk about hunger in Africa by talking about Africa as it’s one place and Africans as though they’re all the same.

  13. Herb says:

    “It’s difficult in general to talk about hunger and impossible to talk about hunger in Africa by talking about Africa as it’s one place and Africans as though they’re all the same.”

    Well, in my defense, when I was talking about Africa starving, I was referring to the Africans who were actually starving. I didn’t mean to imply that all Africans were starving.

    What I meant to imply is that the African who are actually starving….the cause is probably due to warfare or political instability rather than mean enviros freaking out about frankenfoods.

  14. Alex Knapp says:

    You know, I used to believe the bullshit about Borlaug, too, but here’s his dirty little secret: his “Green Revolution” was a short term solution that is causing major long-term problems. It’s depleting soil in Asia like crazy, poisoned the waterways and killed off tons of fish and other aquatic wildlife. Yes, he probably saved millions of lives. But in the long run, the populations aren’t sustainable. Asia is losing arable land, and it’s not coming back. What happens then?

    Borlaug’s “Revolution” is a casebook study in the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    I don’t necessarily oppose GMOs, but I think we ought to be damned careful with them.