by J. D. Heyes
A number of American corporations and foundations are spearheading efforts to spread genetically modified organisms to the African continent, including agri-giant Monsanto and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to a just-released report.
“The U.S., the world’s top producer of GM crops, is seeking new markets for American GM crops in Africa,” said Haidee Swanby of the African Center for Biosafety, which authored the report commissioned by Friends of the Earth International. “The U.S. administration’s strategy consists of assisting African nations to produce biosafety laws that promote agribusiness interests instead of protecting Africans from the potential threats of GM crops.”
In addition, the new report “exposes” the manner in which Monsanto uses its clout to negatively influence biosafety measures in African nations, how the agri-giant gets its regulatory approval for its products, and opens the door for its GMO maize.
Thus far, according to Friends of the Earth International, only four African nations – Burkina Faso, Egypt, South Africa and Sudan – have released commercial GMO crops. However, the issue of GM maize remains controversial, even as it is used already to feed millions of Africans.
The group, in a press release, noted that unlike Europe and the U.S., where some of the more stringent biosafety regulations are in place, most African nations have no such legalistic protections. In fact, the group said, just seven African countries have a functional biosafety regulatory framework.
“African governments must protect their citizens and our rights must be respected. We deserve the same level of biosafety protection that European citizens enjoy,” said Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, from Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
Around the world global markets for GMO foods and crops have increasingly been hampered by biosafety regulations and other measures over the past 10 years or so. In some countries, and especially many Eurozone nations, GMO foods and crops have been rejected outright by consumers. The same is true in the U.S., where organic food consumption topped $42 billion in sales in 2014, up from about $31 billion two years earlier.
“South African farmers have more than 16 years’ experience cultivating GM maize, soya and cotton, but the promise that GM crops would address food security has not been fulfilled,” Swanby continued. “Indeed, South Africa’s food security is reportedly declining with almost half the nation currently categorised as food insecure even though South Africa exports maize.
“The South African experience confirms that GM crops can only bring financial benefits for a small number of well-resourced farmers,” she added. “The vast majority of African farmers are small farmers who cannot afford to adopt expensive crops which need polluting inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and chemicals to perform effectively.”
Friends of the Earth delegates attended the International Forum for Agroecology, which was held at the Nyeleni Center in Selingue, Mali, Feb. 24-27. Groups that attended represented millions of small food producers and local growers, and all believe that GMO foods are part of the problem of, rather than a solution to, hunger, climate change and global biodiversity crises.
The Friends of the Earth press release further noted:
In March 2011 the UN Special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, released a report, “Agro-ecology and the right to food”, which demonstrates that agroecology, if sufficiently supported, can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty.
The report challenged technological, industrial farming methods including patented seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified crops.
Agroecology is defined as “application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems,” and “a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture, and local food system experiences.”
Read more about it here.