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In defence of GM food

As an agricultural scientist, I was amused at S.K Agyemang-Duah's statement (NA, October) that "no one has the right to feed people with food that insects reject" in reference to genetically modified (GM) foods. Insects reject many foods that people eat, including organically grown food! Almost every plant species naturally contains chemicals that repel insects. This is nature's way of plant protection.

The relevant question is, are GM foods safe to eat? This is one question that Agyemang-Duah cleverly dodges. Virtually every American has been consuming GM soybean and maize for over 10 years, without any ill effects. GM foods are also widely consumed in China, Argentina and South Africa. To the contrary, GM foods result in lower use of agricultural chemicals, protecting human health and nature as well.

The conspiracy theory that the author promotes--that GM seeds must be purchased every year, and therefore represent a plot by the multinational company, Monsanto, to force farmers to buy their seeds--is nonsense. As in America, farmers buy whatever seeds will give them the highest profit, and still have access to hundreds of non-GM maize varieties.

How can one imagine that anyone could force African farmers to stop growing their own local maize? They will grow whatever pleases them--and they deserve the option of choosing safe, highly profitable GM alternatives.

Fortunately, many African countries have rejected the backward arguments put forth against GM crops, which seem to be more based on anti-Western sentiments than on reason. While there are many good reasons to be wary of Western involvement in Africa, GM-based food is not one of them.

I encourage your readers to get all of the facts, and separate the chaff from the grain, rather than throwing our perfectly good grain!

John Wendt

Kampala, Uganda

Even King Solomon can't run Nigeria successfully

Many thanks for publishing Osei Boateng's report on Frederick Forsyth's reworked book (The Biafran Story) side by side with Peter Ezeh's one-sided report on Nigeria (Has Obasanjo Failed?, NA, Oct).

Nigeria's situation is not different from what is causing war in Cote d'Ivoire, yet people like Ezeh continue to ignore the full picture by pinning all the problems on Obasanjo, and would rather see the people that turned corruption into a national ideology take over from him.

Viewing today's predicament from the angle of Biafra is important in more ways than one. For instance, the Biafran leader, Chief Odumegbu Ojukwu, was the first leader from the South to fully understand the danger inherent in the structural imbalance that put Nigerians in the pockets of a parasitic few who see democracy as an affront.

Demosthenes put it brilliantly: "Beware lest in your anxiety to avoid war you obtain a master." The Northern oligarchy is the master in Nigeria and constant abortion of democracy as well as reckless looting of the treasury is all that we've got to show for it.

Is Obasanjo guilty of...

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