Project 21, an African-American leadership network, has been joined by African leaders in urging that Africa be provided with the tools it needs to feed its people.
African leaders are appealing to the United States government to ignore misguided political protests against genetically modified foods, so that those afflicted with disease and starvation on the African continent might have hope for the future. Project 21 is supportive of such efforts to help blacks in Africa, as well as educating all peoples of the world about the benefits of food technology advances.
A 1997 report by the World Bank and the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research estimated biotechnology would increase agricultural production in the developing world by as much as 25 percent. In Africa, genetically modified rice rich in Vitamin A could play a significant role in the fight to wipe out malnutrition among poor citizens. A modified banana is also being developed that will provide an affordable inoculation against hepatitis.
Politically powerful opposition groups in Europe and North America, however, are trying to put a halt to biotechnical research and development. Opposition to biotech research was one of the favorite causes of radical protestors who tried to shut down the 1999 World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle.
“I consider this opposition as elitism in its cruelest form, since the poorest members of the population, blacks in particular, are going to suffer because of it,” wrote Project 21 member John Meredith in a recent New Visions Commentary distributed by Project 21.
Hassan Adamu, the Nigerian Minister for Agricultural and Rural Development, echoed Meredith’s sentiments. In a Washington Post commentary published on September 11, Adamu wrote, “Millions of Africans–far too many of them children– are suffering from malnutrition and hunger. Agricultural biotechnology offers a way to stop the suffering. . . . To deny desperate, hungry people the means to control their futures by presuming to know what is best for them is not only paternalistic, but morally wrong.”
On August 21, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi wrote to then-President Bill Clinton about providing Africa with new genetically modified foods. Moi wrote, “Today, the international community is on the verge of the biotechnology revolution which Africa cannot afford to miss. . . . Africa risks a biotechnology gap if we fail to participate in this project, just in the same way that concern has been expressed about the digital gap in information technology, without which deliberate intervention may result in a further marginalization of our continent.”
David Almasi is director of Project 21.
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