We asked Jules Pretty about the accuracy of the Telegraph report posted on ngin yesterday (claiming he'd send GM was necessary to feed the world) together with completely contrary accounts from New Scientist on line and Sky News. Jules replied as follows (see the Guardian piece referred to below)
Read today's Guardian environment page for the real story. (and see next week's New Scientist...)
Believe which journalist you choose!
PS And the New Scientist on line service...http://www.newscientist.com/
Low-tech beats GM, says prince
Charles backs revolutionary system to aid starving
Special report: GM debate
THE GUARDIAN (UK)
Tuesday January 16, 2001
Prince Charles yesterday reignited the GM debate by endorsing a revolutionary agricultural system that claims to prove that the 800m facing hunger in developing countries can grow far more food by adopting simple farming techniques than by going down the hi-tech GM route favoured by Tony Blair and US corporations.
Addressing a conference at St James's Palace on the benefits of "sustainable" agriculture, the prince said: "Arguments for hi-tech agriculture are increasingly accepted without question, and their possible long term consequences on the environment and economies are not being given sufficient attention.
"One of the most commonly raised arguments raised by those in favour of GMs is that they are necessary to 'feed the world'. But where people are starving, lack of food is rarely the underlying cause. There is a need to create sustainable livelihoods. I would argue for a more balanced approach. Sustainable agriculture provides a pointer to what can be achieved."
The prince, representatives of large corporations, charities and academies around the world heard that almost 9m poor farmers in more than 50 developing countries were witnessing 50 to 150% yield increases with huge environmental and social benefits.
"Sustainable agriculture" has been developed largely over the past decade and aims to save water, regenerate soils by using manures, forgo deep ploughing to prevent erosion, reclaim unproductive land, and minimisethe use of pesticides and fertilisers. It is close to organic agriculture which the prince has long favoured.
The usual claim for GM foods is that they increase yields between 5 to 10%, but, say critics, hi-tech farming may undermine small farmers who mostly save their own seeds and cannot afford the new technology.
Leading GM companies and governments have highlighted the growing global food crisis and tried to promote the controversial technology by claiming it could "feed the world". Last year, Mr Blair said that GM foods could "bring benefits for mankind".
The research by Essex University, funded by the Department for International Development, Greenpeace and Bread For the World, collated data from more than 200 projects growing food on more than 29.8m hectares (75m acres), and found "astonishing" results.
"We set out to see if farmers can improve food production with cheap, low-cost, locally available technologies and inputs, and whether they can do this without causing further environmental damage," said Jules Pretty, director of the University of Essex centre for environment and society.
"We found that for 4.42m small farmers practising sustainable agriculture on 3.58m hectares average food production per household increased 73%. For the 146,000 farmers on 542,000 hectares cultivating crops like potato and cassava the increase was 150%; and on larger farms total production increased by 46%."
The research showed that almost all the projects made better use of local natural resources and involved people working together as groups. "It seems to work best in the poorest areas," said Prof Pretty. "We can start to see real improvements."
'Feeding the world?'
Jules Pretty on the myths and realities of sustainable farming's quiet revolution http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/article2.htm
'Strange fruit' - Jules Petty on sustainable agriculture http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/235.htm