Monday, July 5, 2010

Rust and Religion in Africa - from The Economist

Wheat rust, the polio of agriculture, is making a come back, primarily in Eastern Africa but spreading to South Africa, Iran, and potentially India. It was Norman Borlaug whose science had sent it into a long coma 50 years ago. The Economist argues that we'll need more to keep it at bay:
For many people the resurgence of the disease is a cautionary tale of excessive scientific meddling, over-dependence on too few crops and genetic engineering. If only, the argument goes, the world had not made itself dependent on a single failed gene, wheat would not be under threat.
The truth is almost exactly the opposite. Without Borlaug’s rust-resisting wheat, millions more people might have been malnourished. The gene he discovered—Sr31—was surely one of the most beneficial finds of human history. ... Science is the solution to stem rust, not the cause of its return. The real moral of the story is that farmers and breeders need every tool, including GM, at their disposal in the constant battle against disease, predation—and complacency 
 Born-again in Africa:
Officially Pentecostals and other “charismatics” count for no more than 5% of the population. In reality, their ministers preach to about a third of the country every week. ... According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, about 17m Africans described themselves as born-again Christians in 1970. Today the figure has soared to more than 400m, which accounts for over a third of Africa’s population.

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