The government’s ex-chief scientific adviser has accused anti-GM campaigners of being “anti-science and anti-technology”, and of holding attitudes with “devastating consequences” for Africa.
Sir David King told the British Association’s Science Festival in Liverpool earlier this month that “the problem is that the western world’s move toward organic farming – a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food – and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across the whole of Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences.”
Needless to say, King was talking about the continent impoverished by years of Western imperial intervention and resource expropriation, something he seemingly did not feel the urge to point out.
Urging aid agencies to forget about supporting “traditional farming” and make full use of “modern agricultural technology”, he claimed that such technology, including genetically modified crops, could “help feed the poor in Africa.”
King, who was appointed as the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser by Tony Blair in 2000, had made similar comments before. In his farewell speech before leaving his post last year, he said Britain should “rethink on GM crops”, adding that he “would love to see Britain back at the forefront of positive use of GM technology.”
Contrary to King’s ‘technofix’ assertions, the recent International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report chaired by Prof. Robert Watson, the government’s chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), concluded that GM crops had only “a minor part to play in eradicating world hunger.” King, however, described the research, which was based on the findings of 400 scientists, as “shortsighted.”
There is mounting evidence that GM has failed to deliver the ‘big green revolution’ its advocates promised. Its prime benefits, however, have been increased profits for a handful of transnational corporations, dramatically increasing their control over food systems, and devastating consequences for small farmers all over the world, especially in developing countries, through debt, displacement and failed crops.
King is also known for his pro-nuclear views. His enthusiasm for nuclear led the Guardian columnist George Monbiot to write that he feared the government’s chief scientist was “mutating into its chief spin doctor.”