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Ethiopia's World / የኢትዮጵያ ዓለም

Embedding Transnational Agribusiness and GMO’s into African Agriculture*

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on October 9, 2017

The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has just released the report For your own good!, which outlines the GMO industry’s expansion across Africa. The report focuses on non-commercial traditional crops, such as cassava, sorghum, sweet potato, pigeon pea, cowpea, banana and rice, which corporations are attempting to genetically modify and roll out under the guise of philanthropy.

The report reveals that a great deal of research and development is currently underway into the genetic modification (GM) of these crops. Most of the on-going trials concentrate on drought and salt tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, resistance to tropical pests and diseases and nutritional enhancement (bio-fortification). The key countries that have been targeted include:

The genesis of GM research into these crops can be found in royalty-free donations of various patented GM traits by several transnational companies to experimental programmes undertaken by African scientists employed by government ministries. These companies include Monsanto, Dupont and Pioneer Hi-bred.

Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB, says:

This indicates that the GM industry, under the veil of technology donations and public financing, is effectively managing to make further inroads into imposing GM on the African continent. By focusing the research on traits meant to ‘benefit’ farmers and malnourished populations, through inter alia, bio-fortification, the industry is intent on giving a humanitarian face to the real involvement, vested interests and expanding influence of these MNCs in African agriculture”.

The main players involved include the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), which is on the receiving end of many of the technological property rights donations, the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSP) and the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and USAID fund the latter organisations.

U.S-based research institutions such as the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDPSC) (for cassava) and universities (notably Michigan State University and Kansas State University) play a major role in this ‘philanthropic’ research.

The ACB report notes there is a dearth of literature that critically addresses bio-safety issues and socio-economic aspects relating to the bio-fortification of indigenous crops through GM. According to the authors, this is especially important given the need to move away from an over-emphasis on food fortification strategies towards a permanent solution: diet diversification through locally available foods, which was recognised as early as 1992 by the U.N. International Conference on Nutrition.

As is the case with the controversial Golden Rice research and development project, the report argues these GM projects are diverting financial and human resources and policies and practices away from implementing the real solutions that can be found within the diversity of natural foods and farming.

Zakiyya Ismail, Consumer Campaigner with the ACB argues:

The real solutions to address vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be found in ecological farming systems, and traditional kitchen and home gardens, which can better contribute to healthy and diverse diets and empower people to access and produce their own healthy and varied food.”

ACB stresses that smallholder farmers must be given the right to choose their means of production and survival. It adds even if gene sequences and constructs are donated, the accompanying requisite GM inputs will be expensive for farmers. GM crops are highly likely to increase the costs of production for farmers and lead them into indebtedness and dependency.

The report by ACB follows a Global Justice Now report that outlines the role of BMFG in spearheading a drive into Africa on behalf of ‘corporate America’ to facilitate a GMO/green revolution.

With assets of $43.5 billion, BMGF is the largest charitable foundation in the world and distributes more aid for global health than any government. Its strategy is intended to deepen the role of multinational companies, even though these corporations are responsible for much of the poverty and injustice that already plagues the Global South. The foundation’s programmes have a specific ideological strategy that promotes neo-liberal economic policies, corporate globalisation, GMOs and an outdated (colonialist) view of role of aid in ‘helping’ the poor.

Global Justice Now shows that the senior staff of BMGF’s programmes are overwhelmingly drawn from ‘corporate America’. As a result, the question is: whose interests are being promoted – those of corporate America or those of ordinary people who seek social and economic justice rather than charity?

Continue reading…

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