''Innovations needed to feed the world'', (BP, April 9) by Gordon Conway demands a response. In 2000, when he was still head of the Rockefeller Foundation, Prof Conway complained that ''the crude polarisation in the debate on genetically modified crops is preventing proper discussion''. Is that the reason why he omits to mention in his article that he is a determined promoter of GMO technology? Recently he proudly announced that a research grant of US$10 million (about 290 million baht) was donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop genetically modified crops capable of taking nitrogen from the air, with the promise that they will need less fertiliser.
Chemical fertilisers _ in contrast with organic fertilisers _ indeed cause serious deterioration of soils. So we have to innovate another technological response, within the same paradigm. Simple crop rotation and green manuring use plants, like clover and soya beans, that have this nitrogen-binding capacity naturally and already bear more safe and cost-effective results. The nitrogen nodes naturally formed by bacteria around the roots are added to the soil without the interference of GM technology. Farmers can do this without big companies which claim intellectual property and build networks of agrodealers, as Prof Conway calls them, trained to sell farmers dependence on high-tech solutions for low-tech problems.
I suspect Prof Conway leaves out this information so that proper discussion cannot take off. An international forum on innovating alternative markets, and the annual Green Fair which will take place next month at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, intends to provide a modest platform enabling small-scale farmers' movements from all over the world to have their say.
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