Of all the strange things to complain about

Mars and others have decided to aid poor African farmers by doing the sort of research into plant genetics that hasn't been done as yet, given that these are generally peasant, not commercially farmed, crops. We'll all end up knowing more about these crops, be better able to selectively breed them and just in general this is a good thing.

Therefore people are complaining

Critics of the project say efforts to map the genetic data of crops are more likely to help private companies moving into new African seed markets rather than smallholder farmers.

Mariam Mayet, director of the African Centre for Biodiversity, said: “What are farmers going to do with gene sequences? … These top-down, techno-fix solutions sound good, and sound like we’re entering the 21st century, but they’re not what small farmers need.”

Patrick Mulvaney, at the UK Food Group, said that even if genetic data is freely available online, “the only ones that can really make use of it are the big companies”. He suggested corporations “want orphan crops too, to consolidate their control” of global food systems.

Sigh. There is no way that the poor can be made worse off as a result of this new knowledge.

Imagine that the knowledge does lead commercial breeders to design better crops and then sell them. The old varieties will still be available, it will still be possible for those peasant farmers to save some of last year's crop to plant this. They might, possibly, want to pay for the commercially bred seeds but this will be true only if that is of net benefit to them.

Thus the only possible end results of this is that they will be better off or that they will be just where they are today. Matters getting worse is not one of the available options the universe is offering us here.

Quite why people are complaining about a zero risk opportunity to make things better we're just not sure. But there it is, they really are complaining about this.