In the December issue of New African, John Wendt, reacting to my earlier guest column (GM Food for Africa?, NA Get) tried to use subtle intimidadon to dismiss my point of view. 'As an agricultural scientist, I was amused at S. K Agyemang-Duah's statement...", he began his letter (In defence of GM food, NA, Dee). The implication of his opening salvo is that we better leave such "scientific" matters as GM food to the scientists. They know best. Well, I should first remind him that it was agricultural scientists who invented DDT, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, weed killers, etc, from which today many European farmers have turned away, opting for organic farming.
He said insects reject organic food, but he failed to name a single organic staple that humans eat that insects reject. He said I cleverly dodged the question of the safety of GM food. That betrays his abject failure to understand the whole theme of my article.
What did agricultural scientists say about DDT when it was first invented? "Oh, it would destroy the pests and animals that destroyed crops and other agricultural produce; and that food protected with DDT was good for human consumption," they enthused. But years later, the US found that DDT was dangerous to humans and finally banned it in the 1960s. So, "agricultural scientists" are not "gods" and thus not infallible.
Wendt also failed to dispute my point that the producers and promoters of GM food are motivated by profit. In fact, he affirms that GM food will generate the "highest profit" for farmers (and by extension, for the producers of GM seeds).
He argues that "virtually every American has been consuming GM soybean and maize for over 10 years, without any ill effects", and that "GM foods are also widely consumed in China, Argentina and Africa."
So what? I should remind him that the US and Europe first used DDT and other agricultural chemicals before they brought them to Africa. Now the US has banned DDT, and EU member countries do not only have doubts about GM foods, but have put restrictions on their promotion and consumption. Besides, the EU countries are encouraging their farmers to go organic because that is the best guarantee for healthy food without ill effects.
If "South Africans have been eating GM food for many years", as Wendt says, it is because South Africa has the largest population of Westerners in Africa. The West also claims that South Africa is leading the world in HIV-Aids infection. If this is true...