What the environmentalists got right – view from Zambia

Fr Peter Henriot  SJ

Fr Peter Henriot SJ

In  a documentary screened in Britain last night on Channel 4, ‘What the Green Movement Got Wrong’, environmentalists were accused of 'clinging' to an outdate ideological opposition to genetically modified food crops. Environmentalists were accused of opposing US food aid for Zambia in 2002 because it was genetically modified, even though people were starving.

Fr Peter Henriot of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia says it is a pity to see this distortion.  He writes:

“It surely wasn't "western-led opposition" that caused Zambia ban (which is still in place today, though under increasing attack from many outside Zambia forces!).  The "indaba" called by President Mwanawasa featured mainly Zambian scientists, agriculturalists, etc. And a major concern - offered, for instance by Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection and the Jesuit-run Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in a paper prepared by a Zambian woman agricultural scientist - was not primarily health reasons but the impact on small scale farmers who produce 75% to 80% of Zambia's food.  The move to genetically-modified organisms would introduce a model of farming that would in effect dismantle a good system that currently can - with proper management - feed us all!  This year we’ve had a bumper crop, never before experienced, and without any genetically modified crops.

The Channel 4 programme should have done some local research here in Zambia!”For the 2002 Jesuit report – ‘What is the impact of GMOs on sustainable agriculture in Zambia’.  See:  www.jctr.org.zm/downloads/GMOreport.pdf

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