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They’re returning to family land that has been farmed by
women, who have developed rich knowledge about agricul- in East Africa by means of town meetings, national radio
broadcasts and farmer field schools. It’s a farming system
that’s much more robust, cheaper, less environmentally harmful, locally developed, locally owned and one among dozens
of promising agroecological alternatives on the ground in
Africa today. I t was innovative ecological technologies like push-pull
(and not traditional Green Revolution approaches) that
were praised by a recent international effort to assess the
future of agriculture. “The International Assessment of
Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for
Development” (IAASTD), a report modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, took more than four
years to complete and relied on the expertise of more than
400 scientists. It was adopted by fifty-eight countries in the
global North and South (though not the United States,
Canada or Australia). The IAASTD found that a focus on
small-scale sustainable agriculture, locally adapted seed and
ecological farming better address the complexities of climate
change, hunger, poverty and productive demands on agriculture in the developing world.
That report—the most comprehensive scientific
assessment of world agriculture to date—recommended development strategies that are in large
part the opposite of those backed by the Gates
The Gates Foundation acknowledges the relevance of the IAASTD’s insights. But it continues to invest
heavily in biotech solutions to the problem of hunger and
gives short shrift to the agroecological approaches recommended by the report. What’s more, there’s empirical reason
to doubt whether biotech can deliver what Gates is hoping for.
Genetically modified (GM) seeds are expensive, proprietary
and contribute to the corporate monopolization of the world’s
seed supply. Despite extraordinary restrictions on research
into the effects of GM products—the industry refuses to allow
independent researchers to study patented seed—evidence is
finally emerging of the significant environmental and health
risks they pose, prompting the American Academy of Environmental Medicine earlier this year to call for an immediate
moratorium on GM food.
Prestigious research organizations like the Union of
Concerned Scientists have demonstrated that GM crops
(which are legal for commercial use in only three African
countries) do not increase intrinsic yields, and, in the developing world especially, can increase costs and risks to smallholders, with mixed, often negative effects on their incomes.
Although the Gates Foundation has promised crops genetically engineered for drought tolerance, these crops have yet
to outperform traditional varieties, according to an assessment by the Australian government. The foundation has also
spent more than $111 million to “biofortify” (genetically engineer) crops to have a high...
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This note was uploaded on 11/26/2012 for the course MATH 2313 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Texas El Paso.
- Spring '08