Els agricultors han anys bons i mals anys. Aquí a Kenya, No obstant això, els bons anys mai han semblat tan bones com haurien de ser i els mals anys tenen sentir pitjor que sigui necessari.
That’s because we can’t take advantage of a tool that farmers in much of the developed world take for granted: els cultius d'OGM. En molts països, they’ve transformed farming, helping farmers contend with weeds, plagues, i la sequera. In my country, we’re still languishing in the 20th century, waiting for the arrival of this 21st-century technology.
We may in fact be on the brink of embracing innovative technology for agriculture, but the long and winding road to this welcome destination has been full of frustration and false starts. We’ve been at it for an entire generation. Africa already faces plenty of problems: poverty, canvi climàtic, a poor infrastructure, political instability, corruption and more. So the failure of Kenya and most other African nations to take up GMOs is especially painful because this problem is almost entirely self-imposed.
Like 80 per cent dels agricultors de Kenya, I’m a small-scale producer, near the city of Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County in the North Rift part of the country, Vaig créixer blat de moro en cinc dels meus 25 hectàrees. Un altre tres hectàrees són pastura millorada. Verdures, arbres, corral de pasturatge, graners de bestiar, and homestead take up the rest of my farm.
M'agrada l'agricultura perquè contribueix a la seguretat econòmica i nutricionals de la meva família. Tot l'any, podem prendre hidrats de carboni, proteïna, i vitamines de la nostra pròpia terra. També Venem una part dels nostres cultius, així com la llet i ous de la nostra ramaderia.
This is not my only job, but it’s a big part of my life. Farming provides me with a sense of satisfaction that few other professions can match.
Farming also poses challenges. That was especially true in 2017, the year when everything went wrong. Primer, after planting in the final week of March, un encanteri sec va colpejar la nostra comarca. Meu cultius no ha pogut germinar. I had to replant in the middle of April. Yet our troubles persisted. Experts say that Kenya suffered its worst drought in six decades. It was certainly the worst of my lifetime.
Next came the pests. The armyworms—moth larvae that attack with military ferocity—feasted on my maize throughout the summer. I tried to control these bugs with insecticides supplied by my county government, but the numbers of armyworms overwhelmed me. A causa de la seva implacable assalt, He perdut més de la meitat de la meva collita. This was a national infestation: Reports are that the armyworms destroyed more than 200,000 acres of crops.
Tan 2017 already was a very bad year for farming. Llavors les coses van anar de mal en pitjor. In September and October, pounding rains washed out more of my crops. At harvest time, almost nothing was left—and what little was left was badly damaged.
Quan no produeix graner de Kenya, gent passar gana. Que perjudiquin d'altres maneres, així. I’m convinced that my country’s recent turmoil, including corruption and cartels that frustrated farmers’ marketing efforts will in due course undermine our food insecurity situation. President Kenyatta’s Big 4 Agenda has food security as one of its four pillars. Under this pillar, the government envisions a gradual increase in the acreage under maize, the country’s staple food. The plan looks towards increases in annual crop harvested between now and 2022 to meet the demand from a rising population.
Coses han de ser d'aquesta manera?
I won’t claim that innovative crop technology tools would have prevented the catastrophe of 2017. I doubt that technology ever will trump Mother Nature. Però ara, we are in the middle of the 2018 production season and the notorious armyworm is back with a vengeance. Acres upon acres of maize plantations have again been devastated.
Yet GMOs might have made things a little better on my farm and for my country. If Kenya had adopted GMO technologies when so much of the rest of the world was taking them up, we probably could have cut our losses. Crops with drought-resistant traits might have survived the dry spell in the spring. Crops with pest resistance might have beat back the armyworms in the summer. Crops with flood resistance might have survived the drenching rains in the fall.
But we’ll never know because we didn’t try.
There’s a flip side to this as well: GMOs not only have the potential to make bad years a little less terrible, but also the power to turn good years into great ones, especialment ja que lidiar amb el canvi climàtic i altres problemes.
Tot el món, farmers know this. Han plantat milers de milions d'acres de llavors d'OMG i collida milers de milions d'hectàrees de cultius OGM. Per a ells, aquesta tecnologia és res especial. És reconegut com l'agricultura convencional en les seves explotacions. Han après per experiència de primera mà que aquests cultius són la pena l'esforç.
Per desgràcia, el mateix no es pot dir d'Àfrica. Entre la 46 Nacions subsaharians, només tres permeten cultius OGM: Burkina Faso, Sud-àfrica, i Sudan. Aquest és un nombre dismally petit.
Europa mereix algunes de la culpa. Perquè Àfrica molts productes agrícoles les exportacions a Europa, our governments have allowed European resistance to GMOs to dictate our own planting policies. For Europe, per descomptat, GMO resistance is a luxury it can afford. Its wealthy nations might benefit from GMOs and the new gene-editing technology that will soon be here, but they don’t need them the way Africa needs them. Europeans might pay a little more than they must for their next meal, but at least they’ll eat. They don’t know food insecurity the way Africans know food insecurity.
But pointing a finger at Europe is not enough. Anti-GMO sentiment in Africa, often based on scientific illiteracy, had led to obscene choices. Zimbabwe and Zambia, per exemple, refused to accept famine relief in the form of food that contains GMO ingredients. This ban on GMO imports sends an ugly message: Better dead than fed.
Much of the world sees Africa as backward—the home of the least developed countries on the planet. Global food production over the last couple of decades has increased, thanks in large part to innovative crop technology in the hands of many of the world’s farmers. A l'Àfrica, No obstant això, food production actually has declined.
Our countries should be breadbaskets. En canvi, we look like basket cases.
The good news is that many African governments, including Kenya’s, are moving in the right direction. They’re allowing field trials of Bt maize and cotton, with an eye toward permitting their commercialization in the next few years. If the trials go well, we could be able to access GMO cotton as soon as 2019 if not 2020, with maize soon to follow and hopefully, GMO cassava and bananas as well.
These innovations can’t arrive soon enough. We needed them a generation ago, a decade ago, and last year. If we must, we’ll wait a little longer. Yet with each new delay, African agriculture falls a little further behind.
It’s time for our continent to catch up, get off the brink, and accept the world’s best technologies for the sake of its farmers and consumers, and embrace a better future for everybody.
A version of this column first appeared July 11 as part of the GMO Beyond Science III series at Genetic Literacy Project.