Manipulate And Mislead:How GMOs Are Infiltrating Africa
by Haidee Swanby, Mariann Bassey Orovwuje
The most persistent myth about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is that they are necessary to feed a growing global population. Highly effective marketing campaigns have drilled it into our heads that GMOs will produce more food on less land in an environmentally friendly manner. The mantra has been repeated so often that it is considered to be truth. Now this mantra has come to Africa, sung by the United States government and multinational corporations like Monsanto, seeking to open new markets for a product that has been rejected by so many others around the globe.
While many countries have implemented strict legal frameworks to regulate GMOs, African nations have struggled with the legal, scientific and infrastructural resources to do so. This has delayed the introduction of GMOs into Africa, but it has also provided the proponents of GMOs a plum opportunity to offer their assistance, in the process helping to craft laws on the continent that promote the introduction of barely regulated GMOs and create investor-friendly environments for agribusiness. Their line is that African governments must adopt GMOs as a matter of urgency to deal with hunger and that laws implementing pesky and expensive safety measures, or requiring assessments of socio-economic impacts, will only act as obstructions. To date only seven African countries have complete legal frameworks to deal with GMOs and only four – South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan - have approved commercial cultivation of a GM crop.
"The mantra that GMOs are necessary for food security is hijacking the policy space that should be providing appropriate solutions for the poorest farmers."
The drive to open markets for GMOs in Africa is not only happening through “assistance” resulting in permissive legal frameworks for GMOs, but also through an array of “philanthropical” projects, most of them funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One such project is Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), funded by Gates in collaboration with Monsanto. Initially the project sought to develop drought tolerant maize varieties in five pilot countries, but as the project progressed it incorporated one of Monsanto’s most lucrative commercial traits into the mix – MON810, which enables the plant to produce its own pesticide. Interestingly, MON810 has recently come off patent, but Monsanto retains ownership when it is stacked with another gene, in this case, drought tolerance. WEMA has provided a convenient vehicle for the introduction of Monsanto’s controversial product, but it has also used its influence to shape GM related policy in the countries where it works. The project has refused to run field trials in Tanzania and Mozambique until those countries amend their “strict liability” laws, which will make WEMA, and future companies selling GMOs, liable for any damages they may cause. WEMA has also complained to governments about clauses in their law that require assessment of socio-economic impacts of GMOs, saying that assessment and approvals should be based solely on hard science, which is also often influenced or financed by the industry.
African civil society and smallholders' organisations are fighting for the kind of biosafety legislation that will safeguard health and environment against the potential risks of GMOs, not the kind that promotes the introduction of this wholly inappropriate technology. About 80% of Africa’s food is produced by smallholders, who seldom farm on more than 5 hectares of land and usually on much less. The majority of these farmers are women, who have scant access to finance or secure land tenure. That they still manage to provide the lion's share of the continents’ food, usually without formal seed, chemicals, mechanisation, irrigation or subsidies, is testament to their resilience and innovation. African farmers have a lot to lose from the introduction of GMOs; the rich diversity of African agriculture, its robust resilience and the social cohesion engendered through cultures of sharing and collective effort could be replaced by a handful of monotonous commodity crops owned by foreign masters.
There is no doubt that African small-scale producers need much greater support in their efforts, but GM seeds, which are designed for large scale industrial production have no place in smallholder systems. The mantra that GMOs are necessary for food security is hijacking the policy space that should be providing appropriate solutions for the poorest farmers. Only a tiny fraction of farmers will ever afford the elite GM technology package – for example in South Africa, where over 85% of maize production is genetically modified, GM maize seed costs 2-5 times more than conventional seed, must be bought annually and requires the extensive use of toxic and expensive chemicals and fertilisers. What is more, despite 16 years of cultivating GM maize, soya and cotton, South Africa’s food security continues to decline, with some 46% of the population categorised as food insecure."
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It is beyond insidious what Monsanto and other companies in the big six with the help of wolves in sheep's clothing like Bill Gates are doing to undermine true progress in Africa and in other poverty stricken places in our world. These people are not saviors, they are grim reapers. They are privateers looking to expand their own empire of greed at the expense of all that is good in our world. Reality has proven that GM seeds are not only toxic to the biosphere but also toxic to social structures. In all of the years they have been used we have not seen a decline in world hunger. What we have seen is an increase in monoculture, transgenic contamination and the destruction of small holder farmers' lives.
Now they hide behind false initiatives regarding water and the environment also using climate change as a tool in their arsenal of deception. Their motivation is to profit off the misery of others. It is obvious they are not in Africa or anywhere else to provide hope to those who need it or to feed people. It is well known that the reason for food insecurity in these areas of the world is not lack of food but food policy that denies access along now with the effects of climate change which can be remedied with agroecology. Smallholder farmers on the whole do not want nor need GMOS. They do not want the new colonialism of contracts that bind them to pesticides, seeds and subservience to corporate slavery.
What the people of Africa need is known to them much better than Monsanto. How these companies are subverting governments and disregarding the people should be a wake up call especially in light of the TPP which would make this kind of invasion, this subtle war against the poor global.The solution lies in the hands of the farmers and the people to stand up to this war against the poor and our planet in order to stop the sociopaths intent on playing God and putting our very existence in the balance.
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