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Africa: Calling for a GMO-Free Continent

Busani Bafana
Inter Press Service / News Analysis
Published: Saturday 24 November 2012
“The organization is behind an African Civil Society statement calling for a ban on GM maize in South Africa and on the continent, which it hopes to submit to African governments.”
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South African smallholder farmer Motlasi Musi is not happy with the African Centre for Biosafety’s call for his country and Africa to ban the cultivation, import and export of all genetically modified maize. “I eat genetically modified maize, which I have been growing on my farm for more than seven years, and I am still alive,” he declared.

Musi, 57, a maize farmer in the Fun Valley area of Olifantsvlei, outside Johannesburg, and a beneficiary of South Africa’s Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development program, has embraced the science of biotechnology with gusto.

“What have changed are my yields and my income.” He said that he earned about 225 dollars more per hectare for his GM maize crop than he did when farming ordinary maize.

He said that he was helping reduce food insecurity in South Africa by growing and selling GM maize.

“Biotechnology has a very big role in food security,” Musi told IPS. “The climate has changed and I know that with drought-tolerant seed I have a tool to fight climate change. I cannot guarantee that the rain will come and I if plant crops which are not drought tolerant, I could get into debt and lose my farm.”

A report in April 2012 by the Climate Emergency Institute titled “The Impact of Climate Change on South Africa” said the country is experiencing a gradual, yet steady, change in climate with temperatures showing a significant increase over the last 60 years. Temperatures in South Africa are predicted to rise in costal regions by one to two degrees Celsius by 2050.

But the ACB does not believe that GMOs can deliver food security on the continent, specifically in South Africa, a leading African producer of GMOs.

The organization is behind an African Civil Society statement calling for a ban on GM maize in South Africa and on the continent, which it hopes to submit to African governments. To date 656 signatures have been collected on the online statement, including those of 160 African organizations.

“We have sent an open letter to our minister of agriculture in October to ban GM maize in South Africa,” Haidee Swanby, an officer with ACB, told IPS.

“We (South Africa) have been cultivating, importing and exporting GM crops for 14 years with absolutely no impact on food security whatsoever. In fact, a bag of mealie meal is 84 percent more expensive than it was four or five years ago due to international prices and the extensive use of maize for biofuel production.”

Swanby said there was a need to improve access to food, by addressing poverty, unemployment and issues around land tenure, service delivery, infrastructure, access to markets, and unfair global trade practices.

“Genetically modified food has never been labelled in South Africa so there is no way to know if it is causing health problems,” Swanby said, calling for a rigorous scientific study into the health implications of GM food.

“If someone is getting sick, how are they going to trace it back to GMOs when they don’t know they’re eating them? We want more science, not less!”

The ACB has a supporter in Friends of the Earth International, which is also lobbying for a GMO-free Africa.

The organization’s coordinator Nnimmo Bassey told IPS that GMOs do not deliver on the promises made by the biotechnology industry. He argued that hunger in Africa is used as an excuse to contaminate and erode genetic diversity on the continent.

Bassey said that GM crops are neither more nutritious nor better yielding nor use fewer pesticides and herbicides. And he said they are unsafe for humans and for the environment.

“It is all about market colonization,” Bassey told IPS. “GM crops would neither produce food security nor meet nutrition deficits. The way forward is food sovereignty – Africans must determine what crops are suitable culturally and environmentally. Up to 80 percent of our food needs are met by smallholder farmers. These people need support and inputs for integrated agro-ecological crop management. Africa should ideally be a GMO-free continent.

Friends of the Earth International cites failed GMO experiments in Africa with Bt cotton (a strain of cotton that had the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium inserted into its genetic code) in Burkina Faso and South Africa where they had been touted as the crops to pull smallholder farmers out of poverty.

Global developer and supplier of plant genetics, including hybrid seed, DuPont Pioneer, said that the effect of switching from saved seed to hybrid seed is dramatic.

The company’s vice president responsible for Asia, Africa and China, Daniel Jacobi, told IPS that of the 24 million hectares of maize planted annually in sub-Saharan Africa, about a third was hybrid seed.

Furthermore, farmers get a fuller yield from hybrid seeds by using fertilizer and agronomic practices, reducing post-harvest losses and getting the crop to market, he maintained.

“We can spend a long time and gain a lot of productivity in sub-Saharan Africa by doing all those things without ever getting to the introduction of GMOs,” Jacobi said following a tour of the DuPont Pioneer facility in the Midwestern U.S. state of Iowa.

“I think we tend to get wrapped up in the debate about GMOs and how multinational companies are forcing GMOs down the throats of local farmers. I think we ought to be focused on helping farmers do the best job they can do today by using hybrid seed and let us not let those priorities get lost in the big philosophical debate about GMOs.”

AfricaBio, a biotechnology stakeholder association formed in 1999, says a vast majority of the South African population are struggling to meet their daily needs and GM products offer a proven solution.

“For 14 consecutive seasons, South Africans have planted and consumed foods and food products derived from approved GM crops as part of their diet and no confirmed cases of harm to consumers of GM foods have been reported,” AfricaBio chief executive officer Nompumelelo Obokoh told IPS.

Meanwhile, Musi remained unhappy about the call to ban GM maize. “Africans should come to a realization that all this is happening in the name of contraceptive imperialism. Africa missed out during the Green Revolution – we must not miss the Gene Revolution. Let Africans decide for Africa,” he said.

Monsanto and other Big Ag

Monsanto and other Big Ag corporations won't tolerate a genetically-engineered crop -free Africa. Bribes to follow in knowing violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Musi has been sold a bill of

Musi has been sold a bill of goods- now that the GMO pollen has contaminated his fields, even if his crop fails altogether he will still owe the same amount of money to Monsanto for his seed. Even if he should decide to go back to saving seed or to using old non-GMO seed he had put away, he likely can't get away from owing Monsanto $ annually, for the seed he has will have been contaminated with GMO pollen. This happened to an organic farmer in Canada, who never tried to grow Monsanto seed and hadn't signed a contract with them. A neighbor's GMO crop scattered GMO pollen upon his fields, contaminating his crops with GMO genes so he couldn't sell his crops on the organic market, and the courts allowed Monsanto to sue him for having "stolen" their patented genes, and awarded Monsanto damages. Musi doesn't realize that not only has he enslaved himself to Monsanto, but also his neighbors for miles arond.

We can solve all food

We can solve all food problems by simply reducing population numbers. I know it's a hard concept for the geniuses running things to digest, so novel an idea it is.

Start with yourself... Lead

Start with yourself... Lead by example.
You should love GMOs they are making people infertile and sick.
Oh! maybe thats what monsanto means when they say their products are 'good for the environment' maybe they mean 'they reduce population numbers' so therefore they are good for the environment
(which humans are not a part of(?) presumably)
Hey DW heres an update for you - Malthus was wrong wrong wrong.
Such a shame that so many well meaning environmentalists have been sucked into this antihuman covert eugenics operation.

Indeed. EVERY single problem

Indeed. EVERY single problem we have is manageable -- well, except, perhaps, the effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima -- if we decrease the population.

Z.P.G. Now!!

Uhh - how is Musi going to

Uhh - how is Musi going to get in on the genetic industry? Take his degree in bioengineering and his clean house greenhouses and patents and take the best of the best seeds (there ARE no drought tolerant GMO crops, only non-GMO. Same with saline tolerant. Same with increased crop yields. etc.) then screw up the DNA in uncontrollable and unpredictable ways like a baby Monsanto?
Face it, there were not supposed to be allergens - there are. There was not supposed to be horizontal gene transfer causing superweeds. There is. Everything they told us about the wonders has NOT panned out, and the bad things are worse than we know.
Kidney and liver damage proven. Cancers and sterility. Decreased productivity. Farmers getting suicidal. Farmers being forced into servitude and having NO right to make any negative statement about Monsanto whatsoever.

Sounds like a plan for the Dark Ages to me.

Food for the Colonizng

Food for the Colonizng Apetite!
This year in Africa, news came of the world's largest sub-surface freshwater basins. (NPR covered this in the Spring, stating that a British military research group had “discovered”... and the next sentence stated that a law was passed so that 'any person cannot just drill a well'). Imagine being told you can't drill a well on your land to access water here in America. Africa has been colonized for it's people, it's minerals, it's diamonds, it's animals, all while the people are hungry and poor. Will this be any different.
‘We request that: – governments, FAO, the G8, the World Bank and the GAFSP reconsider their promotion of Public/Private Partnerships which, as they are now conceived, are not suitable instruments to support the family farms which are the very basis of African food security and sovereignty.”

And well that it should sound familiar... Welcome to phase 2 of the Green Revolution. “Tanzania, Ghana, and Ethiopia are the first to fall for the deception, with Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and other African nations lining up for the 'Grow Africa Partnership,' under Obama’s 'Global Agricultural Development' plan.”
“The Chinese government has begun to purchase land in Africa and South America to begin growing their own non-GMO soybeans. In a talk on Thursday, September 6, 2012, Dr. Huber disclosed that Chinese government scientists have tested imported soybeans from the United States and found the pathogen he warned Secretary Vilsack about.”

In the west we hear of Monsanto etc, but China and S Korea have well funded and advanced GMO programs also. Organic can feed the world.

Tomas DiFiore

..Experience says that when

..Experience says that when people tell you they ar4e saving the world - they are picking your pocket.
. . I heard you can not save seed from one year to the next - and then that's all you can grow because any old seeds might sprout and you have to pay for it anyway.....
A copy of the contract these people are presented to / and the restrictions / the regulations / the rules / would ease many minds..........
and are there dangers of these crops / under what circumstances / / / I 've heard about some animals reactions to it ???
. . . To have an open mind to these crops require all the facts, not just some - - - the more you know, the better informed your decision can be / hiding facts only makes me wonder /\ what are you hiding and why..........

Seems like this entire

Seems like this entire article is a Pro Genetically Modified spin.
I would have expected an anti-genetically-modified stance.

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