Starved for Science: How Biotechnology Is Being Kept Out of Africa 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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The Amazon Book Review
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“Condoning the cultivation of genetically modified crops for food is not, Robert Paarlberg concedes, likely to win him friends in academic circles...But in this timely book, Paarlberg, a political scientist, makes a strong argument: Europeans, who have so much food they do not need the help of science to make more, are pushing their prejudices on Africa, which still relies on foreign aid to feed its people. He calls on global policymakers to renew investment in agricultural science and to stop imposing visions of "organic food purity" on a continent that has never had a green revolution. As governments look for ways of tackling what is now commonly called a "global food crisis" with unprecedented price increases in basic foodstuffs, this book offers welcome food for thought.”―Jenny Wiggins, Financial Times
“[An] illuminating book on the state of science and agriculture in Africa...[It] has much of merit.”―Jules Pretty, Times Higher Education Supplement
“[This] book ends with an alternative perspective on globalization that will inspire open-minded skeptics to rethink the matter...[Paarlberg is] a pragmatic believer in separating babies from bathwater. The fact that current applications of GM technology primarily benefit a handful of corporations does not deter Paarlberg from envisioning a scenario in which nonprofits and private African corporations might employ GM technology to serve the increasingly dire needs of African farmers...An insightful book that deftly balances the benefits and drawbacks of globalization, all within parameters conforming to the real world, the one in which we live...A clarion call for corporations and NGOs alike to revisit issues that have been ideologically polarized rather than rationally examined.”―James E. McWilliams, Texas Observer
“This is an important book...Paarlberg has written extensively about smallholder agricultural development and genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa. Here he goes much deeper than just the GM debate to suggest that the anti-GM arguments are part of the currently fashionable trend in many international institutions such as the World Bank and leading NGOs to push organic agriculture and a European-style regulatory system in Africa--instead of promoting increased production...The author says that although well-intentioned, and perhaps appropriate in countries which have already experienced major scientific advances in agriculture, including India, China, and Brazil, these policies are leading to food shortages and agricultural disasters in Africa. Well argued and documented, if controversial.”―C. W. Hartwig, Choice --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
Norman Borlaug is Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.
Jimmy Carter is former President of the United States. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B002PMVP14
- Publisher : Harvard University Press; 1st edition (April 1, 2009)
- Publication date : April 1, 2009
- Language : English
- File size : 2056 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Not Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 256 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #873,503 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Paarlberg begins by summarizing the Green Revolution and the numbers do not lie: many people who would have died from starvation did not because the Green Revolution increased the productivity of farms throughout Asia and other parts of the world. Farm productivity is at an all-time high, with the exception of the continent of Africa. In Africa, farm productivity has decreased in the last few decades. Paarlberg is convinced that African farmers remain unproductive because the agricultural science that made the Green Revolution possible and spurred agricultural productivity elsewhere never made it to Africa. The case Paarlberg makes is simply irrefragable; the numbers do not lie.
The rest of the book examines why these advances in agricultural science have not made it to Africa. According to Paarlberg, Americans and Europeans have embraced genetic engineering when it comes to medicine because they can directly see the benefits of it. However, when it comes to agriculture, the benefits of genetic engineering are not readily and directly observable, and therefore, the public's support of genetic engineering in agriculture is low. This attitude towards genetically modified (GM) crops, which ranges from nonchalant to actively hostile has been imported to Africa by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), the World Bank and a whole host of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that import Western funding and European aversions to GMOs. Thus we have the curious case of wealthy, well-fed Europeans telling poor, starving Africans to stay away from chemical fertilizers and GM crops that could make them more prosperous and less dependent on foreign aid. In this the vicious cycle of dependence is maintained.
Paarlberg hoped that the introduction of drought-resistant plants will turn the tide, since the poor, rural farmers will make so much noise for these GM crops, that African governments will have to change. I wish I could share his guarded optimism. I think that there are too many people too heavily invested in the present status quo for things to change very fast. With the economic problems in Europe and the US, the money tap will be shut off at some point in time. Maybe then, African governments will get serious about feeding their people without excessive amounts of foreign aid.
Anyone interested in Africa or agriculture should read this book, It is clearly written and forcefully argued, and its positions are sensible and believable.
The problem facing average Africans, who are mostly small farmers, is that their lands, animals, labor and tools are incapapble of producing enough crops to ensure that they can live above the poverty line set by the UN and to sustain the nutritional needs of their societies (Paarlberg 5-6). Patents and distortions in the international markets may be part of the reason for why GMOs and other life-changing technologies haven't reached Africa, but they are not the sole causes (Ibid 4-5). Paarlberg notes that the African farmer is already operating and maximum efficiency without the aid of modern science, but he remains unable to produce enough crops to reduce poverty and malnutrition in his society at a comparable level to an OECD country or most other developming regions (Ibid 6). The lack of modern agronomy technologies is what's holding Africa back in terms of food production, which the African governments are partially responsible for in their agricultural policies - which are influenced by activist NGOs who don't understand the African farmer's plight and have no evidence for their overly cautious position on GMOs (Ibid 16-18).
There is no scientific proof that suggest that there are any drawbacks to GMOs and other biotechnologies, beside the ones we've already found (i.e. Mad Cow Disease). This has been proven time after time by government and independent scientific studies done by European and US institutions (Ibid 26-32). The African governments reject GMOs and GM crops because they feel that they can't control its long-term effects on the environment (Ibid 12-16). In fact, the currently approved GMOs in the US have not been any more harmful than exisitng organic crops engineered by cross-breeding and naturally engineered crops (Ibid 28-31). In short, there are no risks that the scientific community doesn't already know about and the side-effects are really no worse than what actually happens without genetic egineering in labs.
Intellectual property rights may be a roadblock for some critics, but ultimately this barrier could be overcome if the African politicians worked out a mutually beneficial deal with Western biotechnology companies to introduce GMOs to their local economy so that their people can be fed. The purpose of Paarlberg's book is not to help African states to build viable and independent biotechnology firms, rather it's about making sure that the people are properly fed and live above the poverty line. These problems do make the African people dependent on the West, but they can't be addressed when the people are dying. GMOs may contribute to the economic destruction of some farmers' economic fortunes in the developing world, as it has in the West during recent and past times, but the greater good must be prioritized when it comes to agricultural policy. Uneven economic growth happens throughout human history. Progress doesn't come without a price. These things are a fact of life in the real world.
If one wishes to refute this review and Paarlberg effectively, please research all the reports and articles cited by Paarlberg to prove that they are indeed inadmissible as a basis for supporting Paarlberg's claims.
The bottom line is this: there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of Africans starving to death every year due to malnutrition and the policy to keep GMOs and other biotechnologies out of Africa is exacerbating the problem.
Ideas about political, social, and economical self-determination are meaningful only if there are people alive to enjoy them. Dying for no tangible reason or benefit is a foolish and a narrowminded mindset that comes from being unable to see the consequences of well-meaning people from abroad, who see it fit to tell Africans how to live.