Experimental GMO advertised on BBC World News
Watching BBC World News via Sky TV in New Zealand on April 17, Dr Robert Mann was surprised to see Dr Florence Wambugu, the Monsanto-trained scientist, pop up. Wambugu has had a much lower profile since the GM sweet potato for Africa, which she hyped so relentlessly, failed miserably.
Wambugu, now labelled "CEO and founder, Africa Harvest", was plugging her “partnership" with USA seed giant DuPont Pioneer to improve sorghum. According to Dr Mann, her appearance segued into what was briefly labelled an “Advertisement” fronted by Dr Marc Albertsen, senior research director, DuPont Pioneer. Albertsen said, “Sorghum is deficient in many of the essential nutrients ... they came to DuPont Pioneer... we will have a variety of sorghum that will have improved iron and zinc levels; we'll be able to address vitamin A deficiency." Dr Mann says the big whole-screen Pioneer ad left him uncertain as to whether the company was actually paying the BBC for an advertorial led by Wambugu.
Dr Mann, a scientific critic of GM since 1975, notes the claims being made were entirely in the future tense, as so often with GM fantasies. Dr Mann also says he'd been unaware that the BBC carries advertisements. He finds still more obnoxious the biased plugging of GM fantasies with no attempt at disinterested scientific reporting. He adds, "If propaganda like Pioneer's is to be broadcast, then it is probably better labelled as advertising, as it was in this example, rather than pseudo-objective furtive PR which is the commoner method of warping public opinion on gene-tampering."
GMO golden rice has been a cynically manipulated receding mirage for a couple of decades – endlessly celebrated without actual delivery.
So how long will African farmers be tantalised with the image of yellow sorghum? It has already been talked up for a decade or more. Yet conventional breeding would appear a wiser way to develop such strains of sorghum – if biofortification is really considered the best approach to tackling nutrient deficiency.