US Pushing African Countries To Adopt GM Crops
An official from the Trump administration is visiting Africa this week to try and promote the government acceptance of GM crops.
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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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
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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