By Clet Wandui MASIGA, A conservation Biologist, Geneticist and Farm Entrepreneur
Hype, misinformation, and twisting of facts have been used to deny farmers in developed countries access to genetically engineered (GE) seed for farming. This has created fear towards GE crops, thus enabling organic food dealers to make more profits in North America and Western Europe. AGRI-TREND CEO Robert Saik makes these arguments and more in his Agriculture Manifesto (May 2014).
The 52 page book contains ten key drivers that will shape agriculture in the next decade. On September 3, 2015, the Cornell Alliance for Science hosted a lecture by Saik to twenty-five Global Leadership Fellows (myself included), communications champions from around the world focused on to enhancing their capacities for ensuring that farmers have access to scientific innovation. It’s hoped that this diverse group of champions from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Indonesia, and USA will build a global community of advocates in support of science and evidence-based decision-making.
Central in Saik’s lecture was that the future of agriculture could be genetically modified organisms, which he has re-baptized as genetically modified organic (GMO). He explained why GMOs have been resisted and continue to be. In his message, Saik suggests that commercial interests such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Chipotle—grocery chains and restaurants that seem interested in pushing a mandate of anti-industrialization of agriculture onto consumers—have led to a great deal of suspicion about GMO technology. In other words, he argues that a non-science movement is closely related to money; the rise of “Big Organic” the back of fear and suspicion, not on science.
Due to misinformation, particularly by biosafety entrepreneurs, many countries have difficulties making decisions on whether or not to adopt use of GMOs in agriculture. In Uganda, some of these biosafety entrepreneurs include the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Food Rights Alliance Uganda (FRA), the Southern and Eastern African Trade Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), and Action Aid Uganda. Their businesses thrive by attracting money from donors purposely to create fear that GMOs are not safe. They twist facts and provide many non-science references to deny farmers access to genetically modified (GM) seed that could have huge benefits for better crops and more healthy food.
GM seeds have the opportunity to provide many benefits to farmers. In Uganda GM maize seeds have been developed to tolerate drought and resist pests, GM cassava to resist diseases, GM sweet potatoes to resist pests and viruses, GM cotton to resist pests, and GM banana to resist pests and diseases. Denying farmers access to such technology deprives them of key input for production and makes farming more expensive.
The other nine key drivers in the agricultural manifesto are non-science, market, sensor technology, 3D printing, Robotics, water, precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, and data. This book is written to enable farmers, agribusiness communities, and consumers to stay informed about the future of agriculture. This book was an Amazon 2014 Best of Books.
It has taken developing countries more than 20 years to decide on whether or not to adopt GE seed and it’s therefore time for farmers to liberate themselves by demanding for access to GE seeds. Not all issues against GM seed are based on science.
The main set back of Saik’s book is that it’s self published and has not been reviewed by anyone independent and or experts in agriculture. As such it’s limited to his personal opinion. There are no references cited which makes it difficult for anyone to access the quality of his publication. Nevertheless he does an excellent job in sharing his own personal opinion on the technologies for the future of agriculture.