Quantcast
Food

Africa's Traditional Crops Under Threat as Big Ag, Gates Foundation 'Donate' GMO Technology

A new report from the African Centre for Biodiversity, a nonprofit that aims to protect the continent's biodiversity and food production system, accuses the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and GMO companies including Monsanto of introducing GMO technology in Africa "under the guise of philanthropy."

The report, For your own good!, also warns that GMO companies are currently conducting R&D on the genetic modification of staple African crops such as cassava, sorghum, sweet potato, pigeon pea, cowpea, banana and rice. The report says that the key countries "targeted" include, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi.

According to a press release of the report, several multi-national companies including Monsanto, Dupont and Pioneer Hi-bred have donated various patented GMO technology royalty-free to experimental programs led by government-employed African scientists. The main organizations carrying out the projects include the African Agriculture Technology Foundation and the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program and the Program for Biosafety Systems. The on-going trials are focused on drought and salt tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, resistance to tropical pests and diseases and nutritional enhancement, or biofortification, the release 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," Mariam Mayet, director of the African Centre for Biodiversity, said in a statement. "By focusing the research on traits meant to ‘benefit’ farmers and malnourished populations, through inter alia, biofortification, the industry is intent on giving a humanitarian face to the real involvement, vested interests and expanding influence of these [multinational corporations] in African agriculture.”

“There is no such thing as a free lunch for African farmers," Mayet said. "And to add insult to injury, these farmers will be precluded from saving any farm-saved propagating material. In this way, they will be expected to give away their age old farmers’ rights to freely reuse, exchange and sell seed and propagating materials in their farming and seed systems.”

Recalling the failure of Golden Rice and Monsanto’s GMO sweet potato research in Kenya in 2003, the report argues that the GMO projects are diverting both financial and human resources, policies and practices away from implementing the real solutions which can be found within the diversity of natural foods and farming.

“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," Zakiyya Ismail, a consumer campaigner with the African Centre for Biodiversity, said in a statement.

It's no secret that the Gates Foundation and multinational seed makers are pushing Africa to accept GMOs but does Africa want them?

Many in the continent would say no. Last month, five million Nigerians urged their government to reject Monsanto's attempts to introduce GMO cotton and maize into the country’s food and farming systems out of potential human health and environmental risks. Burkina Faso's cotton association is also currently seeking $83.91 million from Monsanto after saying GMO cotton led to a drop in quality.

"We went from 39.2 billion (CFA francs) in losses to 49.3 billion in just one harvest. If we continue like that we'll just dig the hole deeper," Wilfried Yameogo, managing director of SOFITEX, one of the cotton companies belonging to the Cotton Association of Burkina told Reuters.

However, as millions of people in several drought-stricken African nations face food insecurity, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant recently told Here & Now that GMOs are a solution:

"How do you change the slope in the curve of food security? Because as many parts of the world don’t have enough to eat, and Africa this year is heading into another famine," Grant said. "We see the front end of that right now."

For instance, in the face of a food crisis and a devastating drought, South Africa is planning to relax its rigid laws over GMO crops and boost imports of its staple food, maize, from the U.S. and Mexico.

Monsanto's Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) aims to develop a variety of drought-tolerant maize seeds in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project is a collaboration between the African Agricultural Technology Foundation and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and USAID.

The world's largest seed maker now has small plots of land in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, Bloomberg Businessesweek reported.

“The long-term growth has to be looked at as a business opportunity,” WEMA project director Mark Edge told Bloomberg Businessweek. “The short-term challenge is creating the market and understanding what investments can do that.”

Edge added that the project involves hybrid seeds rather than the genetically modified varieties Monsanto produces, "which are controversial on the continent." (Read here to learn the difference between hybrids and GMOs but depending on how you look at it, they might as well be two sides of the same coin).

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a number of other Big Ag companies have also set sights on Africa:

"Monsanto rival DuPont, which is bigger in Africa, has its own Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program to shift farmers toward hardier seed varieties. Cargill, the world’s biggest grain trader, last year expanded an animal-feed facility in South Africa. Olam International, among the world’s largest food traders, is boosting its investments in branded foods, including Tasty Tom tomato paste and Pearl biscuits. Agco, the world’s third-biggest maker of farm machinery after Deere, is developing small, solar-powered cooling facilities—a huge need in Africa."

From the report, For your own good!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Monsanto CEO Says ‘Roundup Is Not A Carcinogen’ But 94 Scientists From Around the World Disagree

Can Cuba Supply America’s Growing Appetite for Organic Food?

USDA Deregulates Two Lines of Genetically Engineered Corn From Monsanto, Syngenta

5 Million Nigerians Oppose Monsanto’s Plans to Introduce GMO Cotton and Corn

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Shutterstock

EPA: Perchlorate in Drinking Water Can Harm Fetal Brain Development

By Tom Neltner

Pursuant to a consent decree with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing drinking water regulations to protect fetuses and young children from perchlorate, a toxic chemical that inhibits the thyroid's ability to make the hormone T4 essential to brain development. The rulemaking is part of a long process that began in 2011 when the agency made a formal determination that Safe Drinking Water Act standards for perchlorate were needed. Under the consent decree, EPA should propose a standard by October 2018.

In the latest step in that process, EPA's scientists released a draft report in September that, at long last, answers questions posed by its Science Advisory Board in 2013: does perchlorate exposure during the first trimester reduce production of T4 in pregnant women with low iodine consumption? Does reduction in maternal T4 levels in these women adversely affect fetal brain development? According to EPA's scientists, the answers are Yes and Yes.

Keep reading... Show less
Cafeteria Culture

Ditch Plastic Lunches: Stand Up for Zero-Waste Schools

  • Carrots in a Ziploc
  • Grapes in a bag
  • Sandwich in saran wrap, with a "fresh daily" tag
  • Water bottle snuggled by an extra pair of socks
  • Plastic straw
  • Chips to gnaw
  • Juice in a box

That's an average American kids lunch stuffed in a school bag, with enough plastic packaging to wallpaper the classroom. Once it comes to school lunch, we don't practice what we preach, so let's unpackage what we teach.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

Trump's 'Hold' on Elephant Trophies May Not Be Enough

As many of you may have heard by now, President Donald Trump tweeted, and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke reiterated, a decision late Friday night to put elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe "on hold" out of the belief that "conservation and healthy herds are critical."

This follows the administration's decision, on Thursday, to allow such imports after finding Zimbabwe's management of its elephant population "enhances the survival of the species" (referred to as a "positive enhancement finding") under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The announcement reversed the Obama-era suspension on such imports due to finding the opposite: that Zimbabwe was NOT successfully managing its elephant population.

Keep reading... Show less

Fracking Chemicals Remain Secret Despite EPA Knowledge of Health Hazards

By Tasha Stoiber

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) knows that dozens of the chemicals used in fracking pose health hazards. The agency not only allows their use, but also lets the oil and gas industry keep the chemicals secret, according to a new report.

Between 2003 and 2014 the EPA identified health hazards for 41 chemicals used in fracking, according to a report from the Partnership for Policy Integrity and Earthworks, based on documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Fracking is the injection of a chemical slurry into drilling sites to free up underground oil and gas deposits. Hazards from the chemicals used included irritation to eyes and skin; harm to the liver, kidney and nervous system; and damage to the developing fetus.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Protesters in Bonn call on politicians to fight climate change. Spielvogel / Wikimedia Commons

Global Warming Timeline, Political Will: Top Questions After COP23

As the world increasingly looks to be on track for a catastrophic 3°C of global warming, world leaders and diplomats gathered in Bonn, Germany to turn the Paris agreement into a set of rules.

In that sense the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), which concluded on Saturday, accomplished its goal of keeping the process alive by setting up the rules that will be finalized next year in Poland. But the conference also kicked a number of issues down the road. The round of climate talks heard repeated calls for a more ambitious approach to slashing carbon emissions but did not initiate any conclusive solutions, though it should be noted that no major decisions were expected.

Keep reading... Show less
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Florida Schools' Food Waste Program: A Win-Win to Fight Hunger and Save the Environment

You've probably heard the unsettling stories of school cafeteria workers throwing away students' lunches over unpaid lunch bills, but schools in Orange County, Florida have come up with a genius solution to not only help feed hungry students and their communities, but to also cut down on food waste.

For the past two years, about 20 public elementary schools in the Florida county have been using "share tables" to great effect, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The program allows kids to place their unwanted food on designated tables so others can eat them. This means the food doesn't have to be thrown out. Instead, fellow students who are still hungry can just grab the food themselves off the tables.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Hurricane Harvey flooding. Jill Carlson / Flickr

Record Number of Americans 'Very Worried' About Climate Change

As someone who writes about the environment on a near-daily basis, the fact that a large chunk of Americans (about one in eight) reject the near scientific consensus of climate change can be a tough pill to swallow.

But after a year of record-breaking heatwaves, massive wildfires in the west, and a string of destructive hurricanes, it appears that my fellow U.S. citizens are waking up to the realities of our hot, new world, according to the latest nationally representative survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
iStock

Nursery Bans Glitter, Calls on Others to Follow Their Example

By Imogen Calderwood

Glitter is great, right? Particularly now that it's getting dark and cold and a bit depressing outside.

But, as much as we love glitter for making everything look festive, a chain of children's nurseries in the UK might actually have a point.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!