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Environmental elites overlook human needs

Dennis Avery's been jousting with environmentalists, greenies, tree-huggers, and assorted other save-the-worlders for a long while. Many of them, says the director of global food issues for the Hudson Institute, are “affluent elites, working against the good of society.”

This environmental elite, Avery told members of the Southern Crop Production Association recently, “is made up of affluent families, well-off academics, and children of successful people in Europe and America, who claim not only that the world's poor should stay poor — for the good of the environment, of course — but also that the poor themselves prefer to stay in poverty.”

They are, he says, “well-meaning people who simply do not understand the power of technological abundance.” Despite decades of predictions of population growth outstripping the world's ability to feed its peoples, agriculture's abundance has more than outpaced demand. Rather, the problem has been in getting food to those who need it, but can't pay for it, or are the victims of corrupt and/or inefficient governments.

The food security provided by the Green Revolution helped convince Third World parents to have fewer children, Avery says, with births dropping from 6.2 in 1960 to about 2.7 today. “This has to stand as one of the most outstanding testaments to the power of technology, off-farm job creation, and hope for the future.”

Despite these achievements, at least 14 million people are reported at risk of starvation in Africa this winter, where a scare campaign against U.S.-donated corn, some of it biotech, is keeping the grain from being given to those who desperately need it, Avery notes. “European activists have conducted savvy, effective, and massively anti-human scare campaigns against American biotech corn.” The president of Zambia says he's been told that the corn is “poison,” and he refuses to distribute it, while millions of his people boil poisonous roots and berries just to get something in their bellies.

The terrorism of 9/11 did more than make anti-globalization protesters look trivial, Avery says. “It showed the First World once again that humanity inhabits one world — that we cannot go forward half-rich and half-poor. Either the world will have to support high quality diets, good educations, and effective pharmaceuticals for everyone, or the affluent world will be torn down….”

Agriculture is going to have to do more to help city people understand “how and why we pursue high yields,” he says. “We must help them understand that more agricultural research is the only way to have room for nature in the 21st century, and that high yield conservation also includes expanded agricultural trade so the prime soils in America and other countries can help provide higher quality diets” for Asia and other densely populated nations.

To that end, the Hudson Institute, along with a couple of Nobel Prize winners and over 700 agricultural professionals from more than 50 counties, is promoting its High Yield Conservation Declaration. Organizations and individuals are invited to sign and support it. You can do so online at

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