News / Africa

Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering

Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongeringi
Henry Ridgwell
July 26, 2014 2:10 AM
A new report states that genetically-modified crops -- also known as GM crops -- would dramatically improve agriculture in Africa. The report, published by the policy group Chatham House, argues the technology is being held back by scaremongering from opponents. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering
Henry Ridgwell

 A new report states that genetically-modified crops -- also known as GM crops -- would dramatically improve agriculture in Africa. The report,  published by the policy group Chatham House, argues the technology is being held back by scaremongering from opponents.

Inside a temperature-regulated laboratory, scientists in Uganda are developing what they call a "golden banana" -- more hardy, and with higher levels of vitamins and minerals.

Priva Namanya, one of the researchers, said, “We have been able to show that we can in crease our vitamin A levels six times.”

Increased productivity

GM crops offer the best hope of increasing productivity and coping with climate change in Africa, according to the co-author of the Chatham House report, Rob Bailey.

“There is a whole host of GM crops in development in Africa specifically designed to address the needs of poor farmers and poor food consumers. Crops like cassava, sorghum, bananas, sweet potato, drought-tolerant maize. And it’s precisely these crops that are stuck at the field trial stage,” he said.

The reason, said Bailey, is that governments are reluctant to approve GM crops in the face of intense lobbying by opponents.

“They’ve created anti-GM campaigns based on misinformation. So for example, alleging a link between GM crops and infertility, or cancer, or animal deformities. None of which is true, there’s no evidence for any of this,” he said.

Opponents argue GM crops are expensive to produce, do not bring higher yields, and introduce more chemicals into the environment. And they say companies promoting GM crops are more interested in profits than in helping poor farmers produce food.

On the outskirts of the Ghanaian capital Accra, farmer Tetteh Nartey grows pawpaw, maize and other vegetables, alongside a small dairy business. This year Ghana approved field trials for GM grains like cowpeas. Nartey thinks it's a bad idea.

“Anything that is not natural it has got its bad side, if it is not natural then be very careful because at the end of the day we start taking GM products, but who has done the research?” asked Nartey.

Critics sound off

Ghana’s government insists it has put in place stringent bio-safety laws. But increasing yields through GM crops is not the answer to food shortages in Africa, according to Soren Ambrose of Action Aid.

“It’s not so much the problem of producing food, as it is the problem of getting the food that is produced to the people who need it. The continent is very much still struggling with its road infrastructure, with its storage facilities for products and so on,” said Ambrose.

Millions of small-scale farmers contribute to African agriculture. Campaigners like Bernard Guri of Ghana’s Center for Indigenous Knowledge fear the introduction of GM crops could drive those farmers out of business.

“This is against our sovereignty, it is another form of colonialism where gradually the developed world is conspiring to take over our food system in terms of taking over our land, taking over our seed, and taking over the whole farming food system,” said Guri.

But if one African country did approve GM crops, others would quickly follow, said Bailey of Chatham House.

“It would become apparent that they’re very useful, that they are potentially higher yielding, that they have resistance to pests of diseases, and consumers could see that they’re not a threat to their health. Then that could unlock a positive chain and you could see GM crops being taken up elsewhere.”

Supporters of GM crops argue they could trigger a green revolution in African agriculture. But there are still many who remain unconvinced.




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Comment Sorting
by: JC from: US
July 26, 2014 5:20 PM
This article brought to you by the shills of Monsanto. Hope Africa will do the right thing. Organic is the way to chemicals. How were crops grown years ago, before hundreds of chemicals were sprayed on crops? Superweeds are coming! But keep on using stronger and stronger chemicals. See what happens.

by: Peter from: Rwanda
July 26, 2014 2:57 PM
I've been in India and Africa working with those who lack food security. In my opinion GM crops in Africa would not lead to African farmers becoming successful farmers capable of feeding their continent independent of Western corporate influence and would have similar results as it has in India.

Dave Woods from Scotland asks "why should they kill themselves?" and in doing so displays colossal ignorance of the plight of Indian farmers because of Monsanto's non-regenerating seed products and reliance on chemicals that are part of the GM spectrum.

Anyone in doubt about the supposed benefits of GM crops needs to look to the epidemic of suicides among Indian farmers to understand and actually hear the Indian farmer's answer that question.

This story is Monsanto propaganda and based on a report generated by a Chatam House, whose think tank members were and paid by?

The most significant quote from which the headline writers could have begun a more insightful story was; "“This is against our sovereignty, it is another form of colonialism where gradually the developed world is conspiring to take over our food system in terms of taking over our land, taking over our seed, and taking over the whole farming food system,”

In Response

by: Dave Wood from: Scotland
July 27, 2014 3:56 AM
So you have `been in' India and Africa: so have I, 8 years in Africa in agricultural research and 4 years resident in India.
`non-regenerating seed products': this has nothing whatever to do with GM crops. Farmers have to buy seed of all hybrid crops each season - this going back more than half a century.
In most developing countries food `sovereignty' does not exist. 70% of all crop production in Latin America and Africa is from crops originally brought in from another continent. Where would Indian cuisine be without Capsicum peppers from the Americas? Where would Rwanda be without sweet potato and Phaseolus beans from the Americas (and maize, and potato, and bananas)?
Your last sentence is slogans strung together to stop farmers using the best agricultural technology: this is a recipe that favours crop-exporting countries, the reverse of sovereignty for India.

by: sadiq dabo from: GWARZO kano nigeria
July 26, 2014 6:46 AM
It is important to improved our seeds/ seedling but we most be concious to what could distroy the nature of our natural seeds whach at long run will be halmful to our lives and enviroment.

by: dean from: Vancouver, WA
July 26, 2014 5:23 AM
BS more Monsanto propaganda promoted by our corporate controlled government. GM crops are so awesome that farmers in India are committing suicide over GM seed issues bankrupting them and farmers in Oregon are burning fields of GM crops
In Response

by: Dave Wood from: Scotland
July 26, 2014 12:15 PM
The level of farmer suicides in India is nothing to do with GM crops. Look at the success of GM cotton in India pre- and post-GM:

Cotton (lint) production
1995 India 2,188,370 tonnes USA 3,897,000 tonnes
2012 India 5,321,000 tonnes USA 3,594,000 tonnes

These figures show the severe damage done to US cotton exports (and US cotton farming - once `King Cotton') from greater competition from India resulting from GM cotton being a striking success.
Activists in India are cashing in by taking funds from the US and trying to stop Indian farmers getting rich at the expense of US farmers (about $4 billion a year richer: why should they kill themselves?). The Government of India has recently named some anti-GM activists.

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