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Opinion: GM Crops Could be Protecting Africa Against Climate Change

If you drive through the great croplands of eastern and southern Africa this month, you’ll encounter long stretches of withered corn ears, desiccated grain shoots and parched, dead fields. They could be lush and green, if the farmers were able to plant new water-efficient, high-yield varieties of corn and other crops. But they’re stopped by dangerous myths and backward superstitions.

Those myths and superstitions aren’t African. Quite the contrary: Small-hold farmers in the developing world are increasingly savvy, well-connected and modern. The backward beliefs come from this side of the world. I saw them this week, when I bought a fancy Ace Bakery baguette for $3 in a wrapper reading “Non-GMO Verified.” The bakery is profiting from the unfounded belief, widely held among Western consumers and officials, that hybrid grains created through genetic modification are unhealthy, unecological or dangerous.

In countries such as Canada, where we grow more food than we need, such beliefs are little more than curious food fads. In Africa and in many parts of Asia, those Western fallacies are killing people.

Consider Kenya, whose 45 million people largely depend on the harvest of maize for survival, but whose fields, which should feed most of Africa, are devastated by poor irrigation and aflatoxin, the by-product of a grain-eating mould, often leaving many people on the edge of starvation.

By this point in 2016, Kenya could have been planting a new, free, super-hardy Water-Efficient Maize, developed using genetic methods by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other charities, and proven in Kenyan test fields to produce vastly larger harvests even in droughts and climate-change conditions.

M Shields Photography

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