News / Africa

Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering

Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongeringi
X
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.

 

 

 

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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 go....no 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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs