US Pushing African Countries To Adopt GM Crops

by | September 6, 2018

An official from the Trump administration is visiting Africa this week to try and promote the government acceptance of GM crops.

roundup weedkiller, gm crops
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

State Department trade-policy specialist, Peter Haas, has told a three-day biotechnology conference in South Africa that the use of GM crops in agriculture can help to meet the continent’s food needs while also promoting vast improvements in human health.

Mr. Haas’ visit follows a warning by US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, in June that Washington intends to file cases in international forums against restrictions on GM crops imports that are not ‘science-based.’

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Health Concerns

The Ethiopian government has previously cited potential health concerns and negative impacts on smallholders and native seed varieties as issues which will require careful study.

Kenya, however, is gradually easing their opposition to GM crops, and the country is likely to permit planning of GM cotton on a commercial scale as early as next year. Kenya is also the leader in East Africa in confined trials of GM maize and cassava crops.

Farmers in the US plant and grow GM maize which is resistant to infestation to the fall armyworm, which is posing a major threat to Kenyan agriculture. Plants can also be genetically modified to increase the Vitamin A content, which could potentially reduce the incidence of blindness in Africa.

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Drought Resistant Crops

Scientists working on GM crops are also engineering drought-resistant varieties of some crops which could enable Kenya and other drought-prone countries to avoid food shortages. Smallholders account for the majority of the 18 million farmers worldwide who use GM crops and animals. The US, one of the world leaders in the biotechnology industry, is home to many multinational corporations who are eager to increase their earnings through the export of genetically modified foods.

Some anti-GMO groups such as the Kenyan Biodiversity Coalition argue that smallholders will risk the loss of ‘sovereign control of their seeds’ as US companies are pushing to ensure their access to African markets.

As a step towards a broad adoption on biotech farming methods and GM groups in Africa, the US is offering to help governments establish GMO research, monitoring and regulatory programs.

Speaking about his visit to Africa, Mr. Haas said “In many cases, the issue is simply the ability to create a regulatory environment that looks at the science behind it and looks at whether these products are safe, both to plant, to grow, to consume. Study after study (by US and European Union regulators) have all almost unanimously determined that these products are safe, and that they’re effective, and that they do what they’re supposed to do.”

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Comments

2 Responses to “US Pushing African Countries To Adopt GM Crops”

  1. Bob phelps
    September 13th, 2018 @ 7:06 am

    African countries already have a ‘regulatory environment’ designed for the assessment, regulation and licensing of Genetically Manipulated (GM) crops and their products on the continent. It is the UN’s Cartagena Biosafety Protocol to the Convention on Biodiversity https://bch.cbd.int/protocol which has 171 member countries including almost all of Africa’s 52 nations. The Protocol, now in effect for 15 years, is designed to regulate and manage the safe international transfer, handling and use of all GM organisms and is working well. However, the USA, Canada, Australia and a few other renegades do not belong to the Protocol, do not recognise or respect its authority, and seek to white ant its provisions as the US’s agents of influence in Africa propose.

  2. Bob Phelps
    September 13th, 2018 @ 7:51 am

    This article makes several factually incorrect or misleading claims and vegans should know better. 1. US farmers have grown GM maize that produces Bt insect toxins but it should be said that armyworm quickly becomes resistant to poisons. See e.g. https://aem.asm.org/content/82/4/1023 2. After 30 years or research and over 20 years of commercial use, there are no drought-tolerant GM crops! 3. Crops biofortified with Vitamin A have only “recently finished two seasons of field trials in the Philippines, but this doesn’t mean that Golden Rice is now ready for planting by farmers. … it has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of Golden Rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient … This process may take another two years or more,” says the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) latest news http://irri.org/blogs/golden-rice-blog/clarifying-recent-news-about-golden-rice 4. Seventeen million of the world’s 570 million farmers grew GM crops in 2017, but way over 80% of the production was large scale and broad-acre, on a few farms in four North and South American countries – USA; Brazil; Argentina and Canada. See: ISAAA 2017 report http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/53/default.asp 5. The Kenyan Biodiversity Coalition’s concerns over loss of ‘sovereign control of their seeds’ are well-founded as just 3 companies now own and control over 60% of the world’s seed – Bayer/Monsanto (Germany); ChemChina/Syngenta (Chiina); and Corteva (was Dow/Dupont, in USA). 6. GM seed and animals will enable the bio-colonisation of African agriculture and cannot deliver on their over-optimistic promises.

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