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Perspective: Activism is plunging global ag into a black hole

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There are a lot of things I admire about U.S. agriculture. Topping the list is a commitment to innovation, technology, science, and sustainability. It’s the intersection of those four qualities that gives me some hope for the future. Earth faces huge challenges over the next three or four decades, and farmers are poised to lead the solutions.

But as we know, not everyone shares that vision. Most of us are familiar with the names and faces of the activists trying to claw us backwards. And we know the European Union is steeped in anti-scientific sentiment. Unfortunately, some well-funded and organized groups are hoping to export this attitude to Africa.

In fact, there’s a lot of pressure applied to African governments to limit or ban the use of beneficial technologies and pesticides. Well-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — both in the EU and the U.S. — regularly pour millions of dollars into lobbying African nations into adopting policies that reject modern agriculture. They call it “agroecology,” focusing on promoting “culturally sensitive” practices that glorify subsistence farming.

Take the Route to Food Initiative as an example. It’s funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which is affiliated with the German Green Party. It led an initiative to persuade Kenya to ban the importation of more than 250 pesticides in 2020. The proposal included a ban on Fenithrotion, an insecticide effective at combating locusts — a problem that is currently plaguing the continent. Already this year, the Route to Food Initiative is planning a panel discussion and a shock-umentary aimed at scaring Africans about the “dangers” of pesticides and agricultural technology.

Meanwhile, farmers’ concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Experts warn that yields will be reduced by 30 to 40 percent due to insects and disease resulting in a smaller and more expensive food supply. As with any other area, African farmers face certain pressures that these activists don’t find in the U.S. or EU, especially given the tropical climate. Farms just aren’t one-size-fits-all.

Unfortunately, African farmers don’t have anyone on their side. Even the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has assisted these NGOs by convincing government officials of these ridiculous and baseless lies. Among the most egregious: that GMOs cause cancer and pesticides make men infertile.

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation. While farmers in the U.S. are making gains on sustainability goals, the rest of the world is plunged in a black hole by these activist organizations. How can we possibly make work to solve tomorrow’s problems when we can’t even have conversations based on the truth?

If any part of the world could benefit from agricultural innovation, technology, and advancements, it’s the African continent. But the reality is that we all need to embrace these things if we’re going to beat climate change and feed an exploding population. There’s no room for inefficiencies and backward thinking.


Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.

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