Present Perspectives

To a far too great an extent, current debates on world food security have been focused on environmental problems. Many were misled by the publications of the "Club of Rome." Possibly the greatest and most misleading mistake contained in that publication was the assertion that chemical fertilizers were

"poisoning the land," so that food production must be set on a downward trend. Fortunately, some have repudiated this thinking. Borlaug (1971), in his lecture on receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, demonstrated the fallacies in the arguments of the Club of Rome. There were also experiments in the United States and at Rothamsted where plots had received heavy dressings of fertilizer for very many years and continued to produce wheat and other crops. Nevertheless, the arguments of the Club of Rome have persisted. For instance, they are found in the current discussions in the United Kingdom and other European countries, centering on the dangers of foodstuffs that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Dangers to human health have been a serious part of the arguments. Wrecking of field experiments by environmentalists dressed in protective clothing have been televised, and helped to give credence to the arguments about the dangers of GMOs to health. In spite of strenuous denials by the Royal Society and other esteemed scientific bodies, strong support from the British government, and the lack of any evidence of risks from countries such as the United States and Brazil where large areas of GMOs have been grown for several years, the propaganda has attracted much public attention. The misleading arguments have been widely publicized by organizations such as the Soil Association in the United Kingdom, and Greenpeace and other international environmentalist groups. The success of the publicity is nowhere better demonstrated than in recent meetings of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), where greater attention has been given to those who attack the achievements of the International Agricultural Research Centers than to the spokespersons of the Centers.

After a careful analysis of the arguments of Brown (1988), Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1990), Myers (1991), and other environmentalists, Dyson (1996) concluded that "their assertions during the recent past regarding the relationship between population and food can be firmly rejected." Unfortunately, his arguments have received too little public attention.

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