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    Pambazuka News 688: SPECIAL ISSUE: GMOs, food sovereignty and Africa

    The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

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    Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

    CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Announcements, 3. Jobs


    GMOs and food sovereignty: Which way Africa?

    Henry Makori


    cc PHYS
    African governments are under intense pressure from within but also from big agribusiness and Western governments to embrace GMOs. Governments must resist all forms of arm-twisting and food colonialism and make their biotechnology choices based on the facts

    For weeks now, an interesting controversy has been raging in Kenya about a popular seasoning product made by the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever. The government through the National Biosafety Authority announced it would stop the sale of Aromat in the country because it contains genetically modified ingredients that could harm consumers. Kenya banned production or importation of genetically modified organisms in 2012.

    Unilever has gone to court, arguing that Aromat has been on shop shelves for 13 years in Kenya and that the GMOs ban, although a Cabinet decision, is not backed by any law. The multinational further argues that the government has not tabled any evidence indicating that Aromat has any adverse effect on consumers arising from its GMO ingredients.

    While the hearing of the case is awaited, Aromat remains in the shops. But there is now a bizarre twist to the whole issue. It has emerged that the government of Kenya is in fact planning to lift its ban on GMOs. So, why purport to stop the sale of Aromat? Last week Deputy President William Ruto told an international agricultural conference here in Nairobi that the government was considering allowing GMOs to boost food production and alleviate poverty.

    Still last week, the country’s governors (heads of the 47 counties created by the 2010 constitution) asked the government to lift the GMOs ban. They said the ban had contributed to food shortages in Kenya. Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, chair of the governors’ biotechnology committee, said the conventional methods of farming no longer met the country’s needs.

    Pressure is piling on the government. It is not just politicians and corporates like Unilever who are pushing for GMOs. The country’s researchers and academics have in recent months used various platforms, including conferences and the media, to urge the government to embrace biotechnology.

    And it is not only in Kenya. Throughout Africa, GMOs - organisms that have been biologically modified to incorporate genes with desired traits - are now being touted as a major solution to hunger and mass poverty. Supporters of biotechnology, like Kenyan-born Harvard scholar Prof Calestous Juma, believe that with GMOs Africa, which has 60 per cent of all the arable land, will be able to feed not just its people but the world.

    ‘Genetically-modified (GM) crops or any other breeding methods on their own cannot solve the challenges related to food quality, access to food, nutrition or stability of food systems. But their role cannot be dismissed for ideological reasons,’ Prof Juma wrote recently. ‘GM crops already benefit smallholder farmers in several major ways. For example, they help farmers control pests and disease. This leads to higher production and increased income, which in turn provides them with increased ability to consume more nutritious food.’

    Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete is a recent enthusiastic GMO convert. He has appealed to Tanzanians to change their negative mindset about biotechnology, arguing that as long as there were no proven negative impacts of GMOs, he saw no reason why the technologies should not be used to modernise agriculture in his country.

    South Africa has been the biggest proponent of GM crops on the continent for well over a decade. Genetically modified maize, cotton, soy beans and other crops are now grown commercially. In January, the government launched a new bio-economy strategy, which it said would boost food security, improve health care, create jobs and protect the environment. The new policy promotes multi-sector partnerships and increased public awareness on the benefits of biotechnology.

    Last week, Nigeria’s National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) announced that the federal government had put in place necessary regulatory guidelines to fast track the adoption of GMO crops. A biosafety law will be passed to promote research and development in biotechnology, according to NABDA director-general Prof Lucy Ogbadu.

    So far, only four African countries grow GM crops commercially (South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Burkina Faso). But from the way things are moving, it will not be long before the GM gospel is embraced across the continent. GMOs supporters say biotechnology holds the key to prosperity in Africa where agriculture accounts for about two-thirds of full time employment and for more than half of the export earnings. Genetic modification will increase yields, improve nutritional quality, help crops to withstand adverse weather conditions and protect plants and animals from pests and diseases, among many other benefits.

    Figures published by the European Academies Science Advisory Council indicate that in 2012, 17.3 million farmers planted genetically modified crops. Globally more than 70 percent of soy beans and more than 80 percent of cotton are of GM origin. Of the 28 countries that planted GM crops in 2012, 20 were in the developing world.

    A rosy picture, no doubt. Any real examples of GM success stories? Oh, yes. Argentina was an early adopter of GM. By now its cumulative gross economic benefit is estimated to be more than $72 million, mostly from soybean production. Bt cotton, approved for use in India in 2002, is genetically altered to kill bollworm. The use of Bt cotton has brought about a 24 percent increase in yield per acre, and a 50 percent gain in profit to smallholders.

    Well, but is this the entire story about GMOs? If so, why is there such relentless resistance to genetically modified food in Africa and globally? There are numerous organisations in Africa and elsewhere leading the opposition to GMOs. Nearly 50 countries around the world have either banned GM crop production outright, or have put in place extremely tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products. Could this vociferous rejection be misguided?

    There are three basic concerns about GMOs. First, the science is at best inconclusive regarding the safety of genetically engineered organisms on human health and the environment. The bulk of research that supports GMOs is funded by agribusiness. Still, there is evidence that GMOs could have deleterious effects on people and the environment. The second concern is about food sovereignty. Opponents are convinced that the campaign for GMOs is part of the neo-liberal agenda to place agricultural production in the hands of a few corporate giants through seed patents and deny small farmers control of production. It is instructive that 95 percent of genetically modified crops planted worldwide come from Monsanto, the world’s leading biotechnology and genetic engineering company.

    Finally, the GMOs crusade distorts the debate about food security and poverty alleviation. The problems afflicting small farmers everywhere have very little to do with technology, but almost everything to do with unequal access to land, water, affordable inputs, markets and other resources. Biotechnology helps industrial agriculture and yet it is small farmers, largely made up of women in Africa, who feed the world. Additionally, it has been shown that hunger, which afflicts a billion people today, is not a result of inadequate food production, but about issues of access. That is why people starve to death in one part of the country while food rots in another.

    In this special issue of Pambazuka News, we carry articles arguing on either side of the gripping GMOs debate. It is true that African governments are under intense pressure from within but also from big agribusiness and Western governments to embrace GMOs. We believe that African governments must resist all forms of arm-twisting and food colonialism and make their biotechnology choices based on facts and the realities facing their own people. Where the science is uncertain, we urge caution.

    * Henry Makori is an editor with Pambazuka News.



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    * Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    GMOs: Fooling or feeding the world for 20 years?



    cc NFC
    Myths and outright lies about the alleged benefits of genetically engineered crops (GE crops or GMOs) persist only because the multinationals that profit from them have put so much effort into spreading them around.

    They want you to believe that GMOs will feed the world; that they are more productive; that they will eliminate the use of agrichemicals; that they can coexist with other crops, and that they are perfectly safe for humans and the environment.

    False in every case and in this article we’ll show how easy it is to debunk these myths. All it takes is a dispassionate, objective look at twenty years of commercial GE planting and the research that supposedly backs it up. The conclusion is clear: GMOs are part of the problem, not part of the solution.


    FACT: GE crops have nothing to do with ending world hunger, no matter how much GE spokespeople like to expound on this topic. Three comments give the lie to their claim:

    FAO data clearly show that the world produces plenty of food to feed everyone, year after year. Yet hunger is still with us. That’s because hunger is not primarily a question of productivity but of access to arable land and resources. Put bluntly: Hunger is caused by poverty and exclusion.
    Today’s commercial GE crops weren’t designed to fight hunger in the first place. They aren’t even mainly for human consumption. Practically the entire area planted to GE crops consists of soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. The first three of these are used almost exclusively to make cattle feed, car fuel, and industrial oils for the United States and Europe, while cotton goes into clothing.

    More damning, there appears to be an iniquitous cause-and-effect relationship between GE crops and rural hunger. In countries like Brazil and Argentina, gigantic ‘green deserts’ of corn and soybeans invade peasants’ land, depriving them – or outright robbing them – of their means of subsistence. The consequence is hunger, abject poverty, and agrotoxin poisoning for rural people. The truth is that GE crops are edging out food on millions of hectares of fertile farmland.

    In the year GMO seeds were first planted, 800 million people worldwide were hungry. Today, with millions of hectares of GMOs in production, 1 billion are hungry. When exactly do these crops start ‘feeding the world’?


    FACT: Not true. Look at the data from the country with the longest experience of GMOs: the United States. In the most extensive and rigorous study, the Union of Concerned Scientists analysed twenty years of GE crops and concluded that genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn are no more productive than conventional plants and methods. Furthermore, 86% of the corn productivity increases obtained in the past twenty years has been due to conventional methods and practices. Other studies have found GE productivity to be lower than conventional.

    Crop plants are complex living beings, not Lego blocks. Their productivity is a function of multiple genetic and environmental factors, not some elusive ‘productivity gene’. You can’t just flip a genetic switch and turn on high productivity, nor would any responsible genetic engineer make such a claim. Even after all this time, GE methods are quite rudimentary. Proponents of the technology count it a success if they manage to transfer even two or three functional genes into one plant.

    The bottom line is that twenty years and untold millions of dollars of research have resulted in a grand total of two marketable traits – herbicide tolerance and Bt pest resistance (see below). Neither has anything to do with productivity.


    FACT: It’s the reverse: GE crops increase the use of harmful agrichemicals. Industry people try to put this myth over by touting the “Bt gene” from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, which produces a toxin lethal to some corn and cotton worms. The plants produce their own pesticide, supposedly obviating the need to spray. But with such large areas planted to Bt monocultures, the worms have quickly developed resistance to Bt; worse, a host of formerly unknown secondary pests now have to be controlled with more chemicals.

    The other innovation trumpeted by the ‘genetically modified corporations’ consists of plants that can withstand high doses of herbicides. This allows vast monocultures to be sprayed from the air, year after year on the same site. It’s a convenience for industrial farmers that have abetted the spectacular expansion of soybeans in recent years. Thirty years ago there were no soybeans in Argentina; now they take up half the country’s arable land. Concurrently, the amount of the herbicide glyphosate sprayed in Argentina has skyrocketed from 8 million litres in 1995 to over 200 million litres today – a twentyfold increase, all for use in GE soy production.

    The same thing is happening in the United States. Herbicide-tolerant GMOs have opened the floodgates, and glyphosate and other herbicides are pouring through onto farmers’ fields. In 2011, US farmers using this type of GMO sprayed 24% more herbicides than their colleagues planting conventional seeds. Why? For reasons any evolutionary biologist could have predicted: the weeds are evolving chemical resistance. In short, the GE ‘revolution’ is an environmental problem, not a solution.


    It sure doesn’t look that way. GE boosters may claim nobody’s forcing farmers to use GMOs, but a pesky little fact of basic biology implicates non-GE farmers against their will. It’s called cross-pollination: Plants of the same species interbreed, and sooner or later the genes artificially inserted in the GE crops cross into the conventional crops.

    In Canada, the widespread growing of genetically engineered canola has contaminated nearly all the conventional canola and in so doing wiped out organic canola production. Similar contamination has been found in corn crops around the world.

    The introduction of GE seed is especially alarming when there is potential for contamination of local varieties. Mexico is the centre of origin and diversification of corn. For years now, Mexican indigenous communities have been noticing odd traits appearing in some of their varieties. Various studies confirm that this is because of contamination by GE corn imported from the United States. Now, the Mexican government is proposing to allow multinationals to plant up to 2.4 million ha of GE corn in the country. If this project goes ahead, it will not only be an attack on the food sovereignty of the Mexican people: it will be a threat to the biodiversity of one of the world’s most important staple food crops.

    In the Spanish state of Aragón, farm and environmental organizations have been complaining since 2005 that over 40% of organic grain has traces of GE content and can no longer be sold as organic or GMO-free.

    What’s really perverse about this fake ‘freedom to farm’ argument is that certain transnationals have been forcing farmers to pay for seeds they never planted. In the United States, Monsanto has taken hundreds of farmers to court for supposedly infringing its intellectual-property rights. Monsanto detectives roam the countryside like debt collectors, looking for ‘their genes’ in farmers’ fields. In many cases, the genes got there because the farmers either purchased contaminated seed or had their own crops contaminated by a neighbour’s field. Whatever the case, it’s a lucrative strategy that has brought in millions of extra dollars for the corporation. And it has the added benefit of scaring farmers away from buying anything but Monsanto seeds. Sounds a lot more like the ‘freedom’ to do exactly what the multinationals tell you to.


    GE crops are in the hands of very few companies. Monsanto most notoriously, along with Dupont, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer and Dow, dominate GE research and patents, corner 60% of the world seed market, and control 76% of the world agrichemical market.

    Yet all the profitable ‘science’ owned by these companies comes down to two and only two traits: herbicide-tolerance and Bt.

    In 2012, 59% of the area planted to commercial GE crops consisted of crops resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, a product originally patented by Monsanto, while 26% consisted of insecticidal Bt crops and 15% consisted of crops carrying both traits.

    Two traits. That’s all these multinationals have to show for twenty years of research and mega-millions of dollars invested. Some revolution! The real measure of what GE technology has produced is to be found in damaged ecosystems, potential health harms, farmer dependency – and big profits for the companies.


    At the very least, the biosafety of transgenic crops is an open question. Do we really want to entrust our health to an industrial agriculture system in which GE purveyors control food security offices and dictate their own standards? I don’t think so. Food sovereignty requires that the people, not the companies, have control over what we eat.

    Nevertheless, our plates are now filling up with food items from plants with altered DNA and heavy pesticide loads, and we are told to simply shut up and eat. Concerns have been heightened by a number of credible reports on GMOs and their attendant herbicides:

    • The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated in 2009 that genetically engineered foods ‘pose a serious health risk’. Citing various studies, it concluded that ‘there is more than a casual association between GE foods and adverse health effects’ and that these foods ‘pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.’
    • The latest studies by Dr. Gilles-Éric Séralini looked at rats fed glyphosate-tolerant GE maize for two years. These rats showed greater and earlier mortality in addition to hormonal effects, mammary tumours in females, and liver and kidney disease.
    • A recent study at the University of Leipzig (Germany) found high concentrations of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, in urine samples from city dwellers – from 5 to 20 times greater than the limit for drinking water.
    • Professor Andrés Carrasco of the CONICET-UBA Molecular Embryology Lab at the University of Buenos Aires medical school (Argentina) has unveiled a study showing that glyphosate herbicides cause malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses much lower than those used in agriculture. The malformations were of a type similar to those observed in human embryos exposed to these herbicides.

    Finally, there is the incontrovertible evidence that glyphosate can have a direct impact on human beings, causing abortions, illnesses, and even death in high enough doses, as explained by Sofía Gatica, the Argentine winner of the latest Goldman prize.

    Our health is ours to defend, and so are our farms, and so is the health of the food supply that will nourish the generations to come. Food sovereignty now!

    * GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. More information and all our publications on:



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    The GMO debate: What to consider

    Mwananyanda Mbikusita Lewanika


    cc PSM
    The debate around Genetically Modified Organisms has been characterized by lack of information and understanding of the complexities around biotechnology. Any state must undertake careful consideration about potential benefits and risks before deciding to introduce GMOs into the country.

    The issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has received a lot of attention from decision-makers, scientists, industry, farmers, civil society, the general public and the media globally. The ongoing debate on GMOs has pitted scientist against scientist, farmer against farmer, environmentalist against environmentalist etc. Unfortunately this has sent mixed signals to the general public and policy makers.

    When discussing issues pertaining to GMOs, it is unavoidable to mention the term biotechnology. Biotechnology can be defined in a number of ways depending on the context the term is being used. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biotechnology as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or process for specific use”.


    Genetically Modified Organisms are organisms or cells whose genetic material have been deliberately manipulated to make them capable to produce new substances or perform new functions they would not do in nature. Genetic material is material of plant, animal, microbial or other organisms containing functional units of heredity. Recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology or genetic engineering is the technology used to alter the genetic material.

    Genetic engineering has advanced to the stage where it now allows scientists to change the characteristics of living organisms or cells by transferring the genetic material from one organism, across species boundaries. As such, DNA technology allows the transfer of genetic material between organisms that under normal circumstances would not be able to breed in any natural or laboratory setting.


    There are significant differences between conventional breeding and genetic engineering. Conventional breeding involves crossing related species. Organisms or cells with desired characteristics are selected from the progeny for reproducing and the selection is repeated over several generations. On the other hand genetic engineering bypasses reproduction all together. It horizontally transfers genes from one organism or cell to another (as opposed to vertically, from parent to offspring). It often uses infectious agents as vectors or carriers of genes to enable genes to be transferred between distant species that would never interbred in nature.


    Broadly speaking there are three major concerns about the application of GMOs. The first concern is the manner by which GMOs are produced, the nature of genetic engineering itself. The second concern is on the acquired characteristics to be expressed by GMOs. The third concern is on the consequences of releasing GMOs to the environment. Adding to these concerns is the limited experience human kind has with GMOs.

    From the scientific point of view, there are questions being asked on how precise genetic engineering is. Is it comparable to traditional breeding? It is urged in certain quarters that insertions that give rise to GMOs are random and unpredictable. Should this be of concern or it should not be an issue at all?

    Questions on the consequences of releasing GMOs to the environment do arise. Is the releasing of GMOs into the environment going to adversely affect the conservation of biological diversity? Do GMOs pose a risk that is peculiar to centres of genetic diversity? Should there be concern about the effects of GMOs on both human and animal health?


    Proponents of genetic engineering are of the view that the technology does not pose any significant risks or even any risk at all. Some of the potential benefits often quoted are increased food production, improved human and animal health, waste treatment and management as well as microbial mineral leaching.

    It has been suggested that genetic engineering can contribute to increased food production through the development of food crops and animals with desirable properties such as pest resistance, herbicide resistance, drought tolerance, salt tolerance, improved nutritional profiles and the ability to manufacture chemicals more economically.

    Other cited benefits are that GMOs can contribute to improved human and animal health through the production of inexpensive pharmaceutical and veterinary products, diagnostics (in vivo and in vitro tests to detect disease and measure bodily functions), vaccines and other products to administer and deliver drugs.


    Some public interest groups and even scientists have brought the potential risks of genetic engineering to light. At the fore are issues of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, food safety, fair and equitable sharing of benefit from biodiversity and intellectual property rights. Biotechnology may also have implications for the ownership of food production and distribution systems.

    At the moment not much is known about GMOs to categorically predict how they will affect the environment. GMOs released to the environment could have adverse effects on the biological diversity. Ordered biological diversity is the basis of ecological stability that has already been seriously eroded, primarily as a result of industrialisation, urbanisation and over exploitative agricultural practices. The addition of novel adaptive traits to “wild-type organisms” could give some of them a competitive advantage and cause them to over-run natural communities of plants and animals, thus reducing both biological diversity and agro-biodiversity.

    It is possible that genetic engineering will facilitate an even more rapid rate of loss of global agricultural and biological biodiversity. These impacts are of special concern to some developing countries, which are home to a large share of the world's biodiversity, an asset that, among other things, promises significant economic benefits.

    Currently, most GMOs, especially crops are proprietary and are owned almost exclusively by the private sector in industrialised countries. Many developing countries are concerned that companies from industrialised countries are patenting genetic material sourced from developing countries without sharing the benefits as required by the objectives of the CBD.

    Genetic engineering may change the nature, structure and ownership of food production systems. While genetic engineering is often promoted by transnational corporations as an answer to the world’s food problems, real food security problems are caused not by food shortages, but by inequity, poverty and the concentration of food production. Genetic engineering is likely to further consolidate concentration and control of food production systems by a few large firms.

    By increasing the herbicide resistance of crops, genetic engineering may boost the use of chemicals to kill weeds but harm the environment. In the same vein the use of pest resistant crops developed through genetic engineering may harm non-target organisms. While these GMOs are promoted as a way to increase crop yields, the results are at least currently, inconclusive. Finally, GMOs may also reduce crop diversity by promoting monocultures. In addition, new technologies such as ‘terminator technology’, which renders a crop’s seeds sterile, could lead to serious consequences as such as food insecurity.

    Genetic modification may change the toxicity, allergenicity or nutritional value of food, and alter antibiotic resistance, with serious implications for human and animal life and health. The safety of GMO food and feed has not been ascertained while the testing of GMO products is complex and expensive. This would leave consumers at the mercy of producers of GMOs. Developing countries may not have the required capacity for determining the safety of GMO products.


    The concept of substantial equivalence is widely used as the basis of determining the safety of products of genetically modified organisms. Substantial equivalence is by nature not a safety assessment process but an analytical tool in assessing the safety of new foods in relation to existing foods.

    The term substantially equivalent implies that two foods are equivalent in all characteristics that are of importance to the consumer-safety, nutrition, flavour, and texture. However, in actual practice the investigator compares only selected characteristics of the genetically engineered food to those of its non-genetically engineered counterpart. The argument supporting this practice is that since most of the characteristics of a particular genetically engineered food are similar to those of its non-genetically engineered counterpart, it must be the case that the genetically engineered food is substantially equivalent to its non-genetically engineered counterpart with respect to all characteristics relevant to the consumer.


    Among the major outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also known as the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992, was the adoption of the Agenda 21, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio Declaration) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Chapter 16 of Agenda 21 is “Environmental Sound Management of Biotechnology” while the “Precautionary Principle” is the Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration.

    Chapter 16 of Agenda 21 recognises that biotechnology cannot solve all the fundamental problems of environment and development. However, it could contribute to the sustainable development through increased food and feed production, health care and environmental protection. The chapter also recognises that maximal benefits from modern biotechnology can only be realised if it is developed and applied judiciously. It advocates for safety in biotechnology development, applications, exchange and transfer through international agreements based on risk assessment and management principles.

    Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration states that “[i]n order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”. This is referred to as the “Precautionary Principle”.


    The aims of the Convention on Biological Diversity are: the Conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. Parties of the convention "affirm sovereign rights over the biological resources found within their countries, while accepting responsibility for conserving biological diversity and using biological resources in a sustainable manner". There is no mention of genetically modified organisms in CBD. It, however, refers to them as living modified organisms (LMOs).

    Article 19 paragraph 4 of the Convention provides for Parties to "consider the need for and modalities of a protocol, including advance informed agreement (AIA) in particular, to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms derived from modern biotechnology that may have an adverse effect on biological diversity and its components". This article was the basis of the negotiations that led to the adoption of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

    Article 8 (g) of the Convention states that: “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate establish or maintain means to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology which are likely to have adverse environmental impacts that could affect the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking into account the risks to human health”. This article requires Parties to the CBD to have national biosafety frameworks.


    The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was negotiated under the auspices of the CBD and was adopted in September 2000 and came into force in September 2003. It is a legally binding international instrument that mandates Parties to establish national biosafety regulatory frameworks.

    The objective of the Protocol is stated in Article 1, “To contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the fields of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements”.
    The Protocol sets out guidelines in the use of LMOs, with specific focus on transboundary movements of LMOs. It features a set of procedures including one for LMOs that are to be intentionally introduced into the environment called the Advance Informed Agreement (AIA) procedure, and one for LMOs intended for use directly as food or feed or processing. In addition, Parties to the Protocol must ensure that LMOs are handled, packaged and transported under conditions of safety. Furthermore, the shipment of LMOs subject to transboundary movement must be accompanied by appropriate documentation specifying, among other things, identity of LMOs and contact point for further information. These procedures and requirements are designed to provide importing Parties with the necessary information needed for making informed decisions about whether or not to accept LMO imports and for handling them in a safe manner.

    Decisions to import LMOs must be based on sound risk assessments. The Protocol sets out principles and methodologies on how to conduct a risk assessment. In case of insufficient relevant scientific information and knowledge, the Party of import may evoke the precautionary principle when deciding whether to import. Parties may also take into account, consistent with their international obligations, socio-economic consideration in the decision making process. In addition, Parties must also adopt measures for managing any risks identified by risk assessment, and they must take necessary steps in the event of the accidental release of LMOs.

    To facilitate its implementation, the Protocol established a Biosafety Clearing House for Parties to exchange information, and contains a number of important provisions, including capacity-building, a financial mechanism, compliance procedures, and requirements for public awareness and participation.


    The term biosafety describes a set of measures used for assessing; monitoring, and managing risks associated with GMOs and the policies and procedures adapted to that end. In order to address these concerns, “biosafety” has emerged as critical to the deployment of modern agricultural biotechnology.

    There is a universal recognition and acknowledgement that for nations to benefit from the promise of modern biotechnology, its research, development, application and commercialisation must be done in a manner that minimises or avoids adverse effects to human and animal health as well as to the environment.


    The concern about the possible adverse effects of GMOs implies countries to establish National Biosafety Framework (NBFs). National biosafety frameworks are a system of legal, technical and administrative mechanisms that are established to address safety in the research, development, use and marketing of GMOs. National Biosafety Regulatory Frameworks are usually country-specific due to the different historical backgrounds and legal systems.

    The development of NBFs are based on national aspirations and should take into account a country’s legal system and existing administrative structures, which are responsible for specific relevant areas.

    Although national biosafety frameworks vary from country to country, they have common features:

    i. Government policy on biosafety, which is usually part of broader policies such as policies on biotechnology in general, or sectorial policies on agricultural production, health care or environmental protection;
    ii. Regulatory regime for biosafety, which often is a combination of enabling legislation, implementing regulations and complementing guidelines;
    iii. Systems to handle notifications or requests for authorisations for certain activities, such as releases into the environment. Such systems typically include administrative functions, risk assessment, decision making and public participation;
    iv. Systems for follow up such as enforcement and monitoring for environmental effects. Enforcement typically focuses on compliance with the regulatory regime, whereas monitoring is a term that usually refers to evaluating actual impacts on the environment and human health; and
    v. Approaches for public information and public participation e.g. informing and involving stakeholders in the development and implementation of the National biosafety framework as well as international exchange of information.


    The introduction of GMOs into a country must be based on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the results of cost-benefit analysis. There is need to develop and strengthen the technical expertise and institutional capacity to implement NBFs, this includes the following:

    i. The competence to determine, implement, monitor and regulate conditions of containment appropriate for specific GMOs and specific environments in the country;
    ii. Information management – keep updating and make available to users databases on GMOs;
    iii. The technical capacity to evaluate the socio-economic impacts of GMOs;
    iv. The legal and technical capacity to effectively criminalize the unauthorised transboundary movement of GMOs; and
    v. The institutional, technical, scientific, legal and administrative capacity to undertake biosafety risk assessment and risk management.

    * Mwananyanda Mbikusita Lewanika is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the STEM Education Centre. He represented Zambia in the negotiations of the Cartagena Protocol

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    Why Zimbabwe should continue to say 'No' to genetically engineered crops and food

    John Wilson


    cc TR
    GMOs are presented as a magic bullet to the problems of agricultural productivity without seriously examining the alternative route to industrial agriculture. Agro-ecology with an emphasis on ecosystem farming and local knowledge development of African farmers is the alternative that Zimbabwe should adopt


    While Zimbabwe imports and mills genetically engineered (GE) maize from South Africa, it has until now taken a firm stance not to grow GE crops. 12 years after this stance was first taken this paper argues why Zimbabwe should continue to take this precautionary approach as huge pressure builds on the country to change.


    Proponents of GE crops and food often use the argument that genetic modification has been happening for a very long time through selective breeding. They are right, genetic modification has been with us a long time but genetic engineering has not. It is only with genetic engineering that we are seeing genes being moved between species. In this way, GMO is a misnomer and is why this paper prefers to use the term GE except when quoting others. GE is something completely new and is patented as such by those developing the GE crops, which is why the argument that it is not new is disingenuous. In fact the UN Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was developed in recognition of the fact that it is a novel science and needs special regulation. This protocol came into force in 2000 and has been ratified by 166 countries to date, including Zimbabwe (


    During Zimbabwe's colonial period, Government's agricultural policy was geared towards white commercial farmers. "This policy was supported by a system of laws and controls to ensure whites maintained a monopoly of economic and political power through land allocation, research and technology, marketing and service institutions and pricing policies." (Mutonodzo-Davies, 2010). Much of Zimbabwe's rural infrastructure was set up to serve the white farming community.

    At Independence in 1980, the government quickly and rightly turned its attention to small-scale farmers in the communal areas. The aim was to give them the kind of support that commercial farmers had been having. This meant widescale, top-down promotion of deep ploughing, fertilisers and hybrid seeds along with pesticides. The main focus was on maize but there was also an emphasis on other crops such as cotton.

    At one level this policy was a great success as communal farmers became the major producers of maize and cotton. However, the success was only when one looks at the short-term results and doesn't cost things from a holistic perspective. Big questions around dependancy and sustainability surround(ed) this high-input promotion policy.

    The land reform programme of the 2000s has turned Zimbabwe into a country of primarily small-scale farmers, a very different situation from that at Independence in 1980.

    Zimbabwe passed a Biosafety Law in the 2006. More recently, the Government has recognised that top-down approaches don't work and has also adopted conservation farming as a policy.



    For Zimbabwean consumers health is the main issue in relation to GE. Proponents for GE food say that people in the USA and Canada have been eating GE food for 16 years and there is nothing to show that it is bad for people's health. At the same time, however, there has been a significant increase in diet-related illnesses in the USA and Canada during the same period, illnesses such as allergies and autism.

    Dr. Thierry Vrain, who was head of biotechnology at Agriculture Canada's Summerland Research Station and a former strong proponent of GE crops and food, made this point: "We have a lot of research that has been done, publicly funded research that has shown gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, infertility and cancer. That has all been observed in mice and rats. When we are discussing human health, we don't have labelling so there is no way of knowing that any of these symptoms could come from GMOs or Roundup Ready use in our food." (GMO mini-summit, November 2013)

    Proponents will argue that there has been extensive testing of GE foods but when you look more closely you find that this testing is based on very short-term studies on laboratory rats, typically 90 days. These study periods are too short to show developmental, reproductive, chronic or multi-generational effects which are long term. Also there are questions about who does the testing and how. Very often it is the companies themselves who conduct the trials.

    A literature review done many years back of all published data on GE health found nothing with regard to potential health impacts. However, very interestingly, the latest review done by the same people showed a significant increase in research since 2006, with half saying there's no problem with GE and human health and the other half showing problems (Domingo, J.L. & Bordonaba, J.G. 2011. A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants. Environment International 37 (2011) 734–742. Elsevier.)

    The following are examples of issues being raised in research:

    • The introduction of genes from one organism to another results in the production of new proteins which can cause allergic reactions in people consuming food from the organism, for example StarLink maize in the USA registered for animal feed caused headaches, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting in people (Bernstein et al, 2003)

    • In the USA, a GE food supplement, L.Tryptophan caused death and muscle pain in many people (Marta et al, 2013)

    • In Spain several people died after consuming oil from GE oil seed rape which contained a toxin aniline and its derivatives (Quero et al, 2011)

    • Some workers harvesting Bt cotton in India have suffered severe skin rashes and needed hospitalisation (Gupta et al, 2005)

    • In Canada Bt toxin was found in the blood of pregnant women and the umbilical supply to their foetuses showed that the toxin can survive digestion and enter the circulatory system with serious consequences for the unborn (Marta et al, 2013).

    • Milk from cows injected with genetically modified growth hormones to increase milk production increases levels of the IGF-1 factor (insulin-resembling growth factor 1) in consumers which increases the development of tumours in lungs, breast and colon (Marta et al, 2013)

    • GE potato was found to result in incorrect mitosis of cells and tissues producing tumours in rats after only 10 days of feeding the potatoes (Domingo et al, 2007).

    • Mice fed GE maize had reduced reproductive capacity (Veliminov, 2010)

    An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops can be found here

    In addition to potential problems with GE there is the consideration of increased herbicide use that comes with them and now with superweeds the need for higher volumes of herbicides and a return to older ones like 2,4D. New genetically engineered organisms are in the pipeline that are resistant to glyphosate, 2,4D and glufosinate ammonium. All these chemicals are linked with severe human health problems. See a [url= letter]]letter to the UN human rights commissioner[/url] on this issue.


    As with human health a number of concerns continue to be raised about the potential impact of GE on the environment. This section highlights some of these concerns. At the same time it should be noted that the environmental risk assessment of GE crops is difficult because of their ability to grow, reproduce, disperse and recombine and evolve beyond initial intentions. (Breckling, 2010).

    - There is the danger of gene flow to wild relatives and land races threatening biodiversity developed over thousands of years. Around some harbours in Japan volunteer GE oil seed rape (from Canada) is crossing with local cultivars of Brassica napa, B. juncea and B. oleracea to produce herbicide tolerant hybrids. GE oil seed rape from seed spillage during transportation also crossed with the weed Sisymbtrium (a different genus) to produce a herbicide tolerant weed (Kawata, 2009). Biochemist Erwin Chargraff, known as the father of molecular biology, has said that the release of GE organisms constitutes "an irreversible attack on the biosphere."

    - Another major area of concern relates to the herbicide-tolerance thrust of GE technology. Over 60% of GE crops grown in the world today have the herbicide tolerance trait and are 'Roundup Ready'. There has been a great increase in the use of herbicides as a result of this, leading to serious contamination of soil and water and the living organisms in both of these. There is also the rapid development of weeds, such as Sorghum halepence that are resistant to glyphosate, the main constituent of Roundup. Some people are calling these 'superweeds'. As indicated above, Monsanto, the main suppliers of Roundup Ready seed, have already developed the next generation of crops tolerant to the more toxic herbicide 2-4D, which is a component of “Agent Orange”. Resistance is bound to develop to this too in due course. Where to after that?

    - The other main GE crop today in addition to the Roundup Ready ones, are the crops inserted with the Bt gene for insect control. As with the herbicide tolerance this relates to the development of target insects that are resistant to the Bt crops, which in turn leads to greater application of pesticides not less. This insect resistance is already happening, as ecologists predicted from the beginning. 50 years of using pesticides has made clear that insect resistance always develops. In South Africa Monsanto’s Bt maize MON810 has been withdrawn from the market as of 2013 due to the development of widespread resistance. The technology is now obsolete and a “stacked variety” has been introduced. It turns out that the producers had false assumptions about the development of resistance in the African stemborer. (Van den Berg, J., Hilbeck, A. and Bøhn, T. (2013) Pest resistance to Cry1Ab Bt maize: Field resistance, contributing factors and lessons from South Africa. Crop Protection, 54, 154-160. (10.1016/j.cropro.2013.08.010).

    - The other area of concern relating to Bt crops is the spread of Bt toxins through the food chain and especially its impact on soil organisms, so critical to healthy soil, especially for farmers who farm by managing the health of their soil rather than relying on fertilisers for nutrients. Disturbances by Bt toxins include displacement of indigenous populations, suppression of fungal populations, reduced protozoa populations, altered soil enzymatic activity, and increased carbon turnover (Naseby and Lynch, 1998). "....transgenic crops can produce environmental toxins that move through the food chain, and also may end up in the soil and water affecting invertebrates and probably ecological processes such as nutrient cycling" (Altieri, 2002). Transgenic Bt has been genetically altered to be always active and is constantly exuded throughout the life cycle of the Bt plant (Benbrook, 1999). Also, one must remember that Bt crops produce the Bt toxin from every cell in the plant.

    - Once GE maize is introduced to a country, because of its ability to cross pollinate at great distances, it is highly likely that all maize in that country will become tainted with GE (and across borders too of course). For example, in the USA today there is no maize without a trace of GE. GE-free simply refers to that maize that is tainted below an agreed threshold.


    GE is another farming technology designed for large scale farming and economies of scale. This leads to land consolidation, job losses, contract farming with its varied problems, massive debt, and entering into sophisticated global markets and away from local food security. See the article 'Hunger in a land of plenty' from the maize belts of South Africa: Mail and Guardian. 22 March 2013 (

    There is clear-cut evidence of corporate concentration across the commercial food sector from farming input supplies to retailing. Since the Second World War when munitions factories turned into fertiliser and pesticide factories, there has been a steady increase in control of the farming and food sector by fewer, ever-bigger corporates. Today, the top four firms control 58.2% of commercial seeds, 61.9% of agrochemicals, 24.3% of fertilisers, 53.4% of animal pharmaceuticals and, in livestock genetics, 97% of poultry and 2/3rds of swine and cattle research. "More disturbingly, the oligopoly paradigm has moved beyond individual sectors to the entire food system: the same six multinationals control 75% of all private sector plant breeding research, 60% of the commercial seed market and 76% of global agrochemical sales" (From ETC communique, 2013).

    Genetic engineering is a further significant step in this concentration of corporate control of the agricultural and food sector. One has to look no further than the history of GE crops to date to see this. 61% of all GE crops being grown are Roundup Ready crops where the seed goes with the sale of the herbicide Roundup. The main job of corporations is to maximise profits for their shareholders. This is of course not wrong in itself but the problem is that to do this the corporations have created a self-perpetuating cycle in which funds, including for research, are channelled into technology and products that the corporations can sell. Everything is therefore geared towards this. One magic-bullet technology leads to another and then another, often missing the point as to what really needs to be addressed and often treating symptoms of problems rather than the real cause. Genetic engineering is another example of this. It is geared towards corporate profits rather than what is really needed for sustainable farming and food systems into the future.

    A briefing about power and control in our food system, focusing chiefly on South Africa's staple food maize, shows how a select group of companies, including Tiger Brands, Pioneer and Premier Foods commandeer the entire maize value chain and continue to squeeze the poorest South Africans. These corporate giants are now glancing covetously to the vast African market north of the Limpopo. Experiences from South Africa should serve as stark warnings (

    In conclusion, here is a summary of some of the reasons why Zimbabwe should not change the precautionary stance it took early in the 2000s towards GE crops and food:

    1. GE technology is driven primarily by Multinational Corporations whose concentration into fewer, larger companies has continued unabated during the last decade. Pursuing the GE technology route plays right into their hands. Their primary aim is profits and not sustainable farming.
    2. There is no scientific consensus about genetically engineered crops and food, despite claims that there is.
    3. GE technology is the most advanced technology within the ambit of industrial agriculture, which is an approach to farming that is best suited to monocropped, large-scale farms and is not small-scale farmer friendly. Within the umbrella of industrial agriculture, small scale farmers often end up being cheap labour for others in the production and marketing chain.
    4. GE technology will continue down the path of losing evermore agricultural bio-diversity, both genetic and species diversity. This is not a sensible long-term route.
    5. There is an alternative route to industrial agriculture and that is making a transition towards Agro-ecology where the emphasis is on ecosystem farming and local knowledge development, supported by appropriate technologies.
    6. Ongoing studies in relation to the impact on human health of GE foods, at the very least, continue to raise more questions. This goes hand in hand with new light being shed on the complexity of the world of genes and DNA. It seems clear that the technology is going ahead of the science (again). One also needs to bear in mind that those who raise questions about the safety of GE crops and food do so in a mostly hostile scientific environment towards those who query the dominant scientific paradigm which sees genetic engineering as progressive.
    7. GE is another 'magic-bullet', reductionist solution that treats the symptoms when what we badly need now is to deal with the complex crises facing us (including climate change, fossil energy depletion and unsustainable financial systems) using a more holistic and long-term approaches. We need technologies that support this holistic and sustainable approach and not those that lead us in a more reductionist direction, which, incidentally, brings more profit to MNCs.
    8. It could be that consumers around the world will more and more reject GE crops and food. This seems to be happening in the USA, the world's GE laboratory. It has already happened in many countries in Europe.
    9. Weed resistance to herbicide tolerant crops has developed. Use of these crops has led to much more herbicide being used, and now more and more potent herbicides will be needed to deal with the resistance.
    10. Crops genetically engineered with Bt have led to an initial reduction in use of insecticides but this is changing as insect resistance to Bt develops.
    11. Perhaps the strongest reason of all is that it is totally unnecessary for Zimbabwe to go the GE path. GE is not going to solve Zimbabwe's varied agricultural problems such as soil infertility, serious soil and water erosion, loss of agricultural biodiversity, and marketing (to benefit small scale farmers rather than middlemen).

    GE is an industry led innovation not appropriate to small farmers and one in which the ever fewer and larger corporations have already made a lot of money and stand to make a whole lot more, especially if Monsanto's 1999 strategic planning dream of having all commercial seed genetically engineered comes about.

    * John Wilson is a Zimbabwean facilitator and activist working at many different levels from community to continent to help strengthen the development and spread of agro-ecology and of the food sovereignty movement. This article was written in close collaboration with other members of FoodMattersZimbabwe and the Agricultural Research Council.



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    Further issues to consider in deciding whether to introduce GE crops and food

    John Wilson


    cc TDM
    In addition to questions of human health, environmental impact and corporate control over the food value chain, there are a number of other issues which must be addressed as part of the debate around genetically engineered crops and food.

    This is a follow-up article. The first article looks at the questions of genetic engineering (GE) and human health, GE and the impact on the environment, and GE and socio-economic factors, particularly increasing corporate control of the food value chain. There are, in addition, a number of other issues that should be considered in deciding whether to go down the GE route in Zimbabwe. The following document outlines some of these:


    The assertion is made that there is scientific consensus on the safety of genetically engineered crops and foods. This is just not true. For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists in the USA recently said this: ‘Genetically engineered crops have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts.’ They go on to make a number of the points made in my first article, highlighting in particular ‘an epidemic of herbicide-resistant super weeds which will lead to even more herbicide use’.

    Very recently, 90 scientists, all of whom are members of the European Network of Scientists for Environmental Responsibility signed a joint statement stating categorically that ‘the claimed consensus on the safety of genetically modified crops does not exist’. They go on to state that it is misleading and irresponsible for anyone to claim that there is consensus.

    Interestingly, it has also emerged from documents made public because of a law suit, that back in 1992 there was no consensus amongst scientists in the Food and Drug Authority (FDA). As Jeffry Smith stated at the recent GMO mini-Summit (November 2013): ‘There had been a manufactured consensus, a false story that had circulated as part of the official documents of the FDA, claiming that the agency wasn't aware of any information showing that GMOs were significantly different. The overwhelming consensus among the scientists actually working at the FDA was the opposite, that GMOs were different from traditional breeding and were dangerous and could lead to allergies and toxins.’


    The case of Golden Rice has been in the news recently. GE proponents have stated that this is truly a philanthropic effort and the Environment minister in the UK even went as far as calling those against this initiative 'wicked', and accused them of ‘casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world’; the implication being that those against it are holding up the release of Golden Rice. As usual it is more complex than this. Much of the hype about Golden Rice is theory and there are other ways to increase Vitamin A uptake. The Philippines achieved this very successfully between 2003 and 2008, cutting Vitamin deficiency from 40% in children under 5 in 2003 to 15.2% by 2008. Furthermore, the truth about the delay in the release of Golden Rice is that scientists initially engineered golden rice into a Japonica variety of rice, the sticky kind that the Japanese eat. South East Asians don't like this kind. They eat the Indica varieties, such as basmati and jasmine rices. Researchers have been desperately trying to transfer the 'golden rice' trait into Indica varieties and that is what has held things up. This is an example of the strength of pro-GE PR.

    There are those who suggest that the golden rice project is a Trojan horse for corporations to gain entry into a number of less industrialised country markets with GE crops.


    The idea has been put out that genetically engineered crops and food will solve the huge problem of providing enough food for the world and in particular the poor. The implication is that those who are against it are somehow sealing the fate of the hungry and poor. There are two points that dispute this point. The first is that the issue of hunger in the world today does not relate to the amount of food available. It is an issue of poverty, lack of access to land and maldistribution of food. There is more than enough food to feed the world.

    The second point is that GE crops have not increased yield. That is not what they have been engineered for. Jack Heinemann, a Professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology, states in the book 'Hope not Hype': ‘There is no conclusive data from either developed or developing country agroecosystems to support generic claims that GM crops increase yield or revenue. It is undoubtedly true that any cultivar, transgenic or not, will produce more or less depending on year, location and other variables. GM crops are not being asked to achieve a higher standard than conventional crops on this point. However, any general claim that GM crops will reliably produce more than conventional crops in the same environments is not scientifically substantiated.’ (Hope not Hype, 2009).

    In analysis of US government data comparing yields between a GE crop and non-GE parent version of that crop (which is the correct crop to compare it to because it means that the non-GE parent crop has the same genetic background but without the genetic engineering), ‘what has been found is that the GE yield is not better than the non-GE equivalent crop yield. In the case of some crops, particularly soya, the GE crop actually has a yield drag’ (Claire Robinson, interview at GMO mini Summit, November 2013).


    In 2011 there was a study looking at 97 papers on GE from the technical literature. Michael Hansen, interviewed at the GMO mini-summit in November 2013, explains what came out of the study: ‘what they found was, for studies that had been funded by industry, i.e. where there is a financial conflict, they didn't see any statistically significant differences between whether the study found adverse effects or no problem. However, when they looked at professional conflicts, whether even one or more authors on paper came from industry, it turns out there were 41 papers where there was professional conflict. All 41 of those papers were favourable to GE. There were then 51 papers where they could not identify a professional conflict of interest. When they looked at those, 39 didn't find problems, but 12 of them did.’

    Another study found that molecular biologists and biotech scientists tend to view biotechnology as no problem. Whereas ecologists or other 'broad aspect' scientists were more open to the fact that GE is a complicated issue and that there could be adverse effects.


    One has to place the discussion on GE crops in the context of how difficult it is to research GE crops. The first difficulty has been in getting the material to research. This has to come with the permission of the companies that have produced the GE material. This has often not been forthcoming. Though, more recently, this problem has eased.

    A further difficulty for independent researchers is the reaction from (some of) the scientific community to research that raises questions about GE crops and food. One of the best known examples is that of Arpad Pustzai. He was very much a proponent of GE in the late 1990s when he was chosen to lead a team of over 20 scientists in three different institutes to create protocols to assess the safety of genetically engineered organisms.

    Without going into the whole story, what is relevant here is that because of what he found, he changed his perspective and then accepted an invitation to speak on television where, as explained by Jeffry Smith at the GMO mini summit in November 2013, ‘he said that he didn't think it was safe for humans to be experimental guinea pigs eating GMOs. This was a huge media time bomb! It was picked up all over Europe. The Director of the Institute was very proud of Arpad...and described it as world-shaking news and issued a press release’.

    ‘Then two phone calls from the UK Prime Minister's office. The next day the Director fired Dr. Arpad Pusztai after 35 years - and silenced him with threats of a lawsuit. The 20-member team was dismantled...Seven months and one heart attack later, Pusztai's gag order was lifted by Order of Parliament. Then a media storm hit with over 700 articles in the UK alone and within 10 weeks of the gag order being lifted, the tipping point of consumer rejections against GMOs occurred in Europe. The food companies got rid of them because of consumer concern, generated in large part by the efforts of Dr. Pustzai.’

    There are a number of other examples of this kind of mistreatment of scientists who have raised questions about GE crops and food. The peer pressure is great, as indicated, for example, by a committee of enquiry in New Zealand in which a number of scientists ‘phoned a member of the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry on Genetic Modification, Sue Kedgley, expressing concerns about GMOs but were unwilling to testify because of fear of losing their jobs’.


    The example in the section above shows how consumers in Europe rejected GE crops before they took off. In the USA, which for the rest of the world is really a kind
    of GE laboratory, it looks like the anti-GE voice amongst consumers may be reaching a tipping point. The recent discussion has revolved around the question of labelling. In both California and Washington, the labelling lobby lost by a very narrow margin, with record amounts of money being spent by the food industry to prevent labelling. In Washington, controversies have arisen about trying to hide sources of funding. More recently in Connecticut, a law has been passed to label GE foods. Resistance to GE has been steadily on the increase in the USA as more questions are raised. If there is a tipping point in which more and more companies decide that there isn't a future in marketing GE foods this could have big implications for GE crops and food worldwide. It is bound to affect the thinking of consumers worldwide.


    India introduced Bt cotton in 2002. A parliamentary committee in that country, appointed by the Supreme Court, gave a damning report in August 2012 on the record to date and recommended and 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GE foods, and termination of all trials of transgenic crops.

    Tiruvadi Jagadisan, former managing director of Monsanto in India accused his former employer of faking scientific data with the specific intent of evading the Government of India's regulatory requirements. Incredibly, as Jeffry Smith explains in an interview, ‘Monsanto's reply did not deny that they submitted faked data to government regulatory agencies in order to get commercial approval for the GM crop products in India. Monsanto's response to the allegations has been to put the blame squarely on the Indian regulatory system for accepting the bogus data they provided them.’

    Those tracking suicides of farmers in the areas where Bt cotton is grown have found a significant increase in numbers since Bt cotton was introduced and link this to increased indebtedness. For more information, see Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, ‘Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India’ (New York: NYU School of Law, 2011).

    WHAT IF?

    Once introduced, who knows where genetic engineering may go. At present there is a lot of debate about whether genetically engineered salmon should be approved in the USA. These salmon are voracious eaters and the fear is based on the question of what impact they might have if they escape the fish farms where they will be raised. Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska calls this ‘Jurassic-Park Science’. And there are plans to genetically engineer other types of fish, pigs and cows. Jeffry Smith again, with another example: ‘They want to genetically engineer the mothering instinct out of livestock to put them into factory farms.’

    Then there are the examples of the genetic engineering that was stopped at the last minute. One of these was the genetically engineered bacteria Klebsiella, which was about to be released when there was a demand for testing in a real world situation. Elaine Ingham points out that if she and others hadn't stopped it, ‘it could have rendered large swaths of land in North America completely sterile because the genetically engineered bacteria was turning the crops roots into alcohol.’

    Another example of a near disaster was the engineering of the bacteria pseudomonas syringa to spray on strawberries to stop the frost. It was stopped because someone pointed out that certain weeds are also killed by the frost and it may cause a problem if this didn't happen. What was learnt subsequently was that this same bacteria is responsible for condensing water and causing rain.


    The Human Genome project, launched in 1990, was completed in 2002. Scientists expected to find 100,000 genes but they only found 25,000, indicating a far more complex system of genes 'teaming up'.

    Dr. Thierry Vrain points out how it was then made ‘so obvious that the genome was not at all what we thought it was. We are actually dealing with a very sensitive ecosystem of genes with a lot of regulatory sequences of which we know nothing’. He goes on to add: ‘The genetic engineering industry and experiments are based on the previous paradigm where basically you insert the gene in the genome and you expect one protein. Of course, with knowing that the genome is a very sensitive ecosystem, if you force a gene or a bacterial and viral construct in the middle of an ecosystem you can expect some disturbances. You can see that you are not getting one protein, you are getting many proteins and this is documented.’

    Very recently, coming out of the Encyclopaedia of DNA elements Project (ENCODE), is a report shedding yet more light on the complexity of DNA and genes.

    ‘For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,’ said lead author John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine. ‘Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture,’ he said. ‘Many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programmes or even both mechanisms simultaneously.’ ( )

    The main point is that the world of genes is much more complex than initially thought and research is throwing this up all the time. There are those who argue that gene technology is far ahead of the science. This is not so surprising when one sees the benefits to the companies promoting it.


    The presumption is often that the development of agriculture should continue along the same ongoing path of jumping from one technology to the next. First it was fertilisers and pesticides as a technology package along with hybrid seeds. Now it is genetic engineering to address the shortcomings that these have thrown up. This is very much a 'magic-bullet' approach to solving problems of farming and food around the world. It is a self-perpetuating perspective that reinforces itself and is driven by those who benefit most from it and who pour billions of dollars into research and PR towards ongoing technology development.

    At the same time there is another perspective that has been consistently voiced over the years but has remained sidelined. It doesn't have the billions of dollars to back it up with research and PR. In many ways this alternative approach is the truly modern farming of today and for the future. It is a holistic approach that looks at the whole complex picture of social, ecological and economic factors together. Firstly, it recognises, builds on and strengthens the existing knowledge and practice of farmers.

    Secondly, it is very much based on understanding and working with ecosystems as people farm their land. This is reinforced by a lot of modern science's research into the complexities of ecosystems, particularly in the soil. Thirdly this much more holistic approach to farming understands that the important thing is to sustain economic viability, not just to go for short term economic gains. A short term economic outlook has been the approach of industrial agriculture, often failing to take account of all the costs as one should do in a properly economic approach. The end result is unsustainability.

    Transitioning towards an agro-ecological approach means using technology carefully and in a way that doesn't create dependency and that doesn't damage the ecosystem processes on which all future production depends. Agro-ecology is about ensuring agricultural biodiversity while also being productive, not simplifying production to large areas of monocropping, which depends on ever more expensive oil-based inputs to keep it going. Genetic engineering is industry's next 'magic-bullet tool' in an ever more dependant agricultural approach.

    The alternative approach is well articulated in the UN's International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report which came out in 2008. This report argues strongly for support to small-scale farming. The opening paragraph of a fact sheet summarising the report puts it like this: ‘Agriculture is at a crossroads; which path we choose today will have far-reaching consequences for our ability to feed ourselves while regenerating the imperilled ecosystems of the world. The convergence of today's climate, energy, food and economic crises urgently calls for reorienting our food and agricultural systems towards sustainability, health, bio-cultural diversity, ecological resilience and equity.’ (See here)

    A shift towards agro-ecology provides this reorientation.


    For many people there are serious ethical questions surrounding the move towards genetic engineering. First, is it right that people should be 'playing God' as they change the whole course of evolution by mixing and matching any number of species, crossing barriers that have never been crossed before and wouldn't be crossed naturally? Secondly, is it right to patent life forms? Are these not everybody's property. All through human history life forms have been the common property of everyone. Why now would one want to turn life forms into private property?

    * John Wilson is a Zimbabwean facilitator and activist working at many different levels from community to continent to help strengthen the development and spread of agro-ecology and of the food sovereignty movement.



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    Fine print of the food wars

    Vandana Shiva


    cc FLKR
    Monsanto and friends, the biotech industry, its lobbyists and its paid media representation continue to push for monopoly control over the world’s food through its seed supply.

    This “empire” is being built on false foundations: that Monsanto is a creator/inventor of life and hence can own the seed through patents and that life can be engineered and machined like an iPhone.

    Through ecology and the new biology we know that life is self-organised complexity — life makes itself; it cannot be “manufactured”. This also applies to food production through the new science of agroecology. Agroecology gives us a deeper scientific understanding of how ecological processes work at the level of soils, living seeds and living food. The promises made by the biotech industry — of increased yields, reduction of chemical use and control of weeds and pests — have not been kept. Last month an investment fund sued DuPont for $1 billion for pushing herbicide-resistant crops knowing fully well they would fail to control weeds and instead contribute to the emergence of “superweeds”.

    Creating “ownership” of seed through patents and intellectual property rights and imposing it globally through the World Trade Organisation, the biotech industry has established a monopoly empire over seed and food. While they claim ownership of the seeds they sell and collect royalties, when it comes to checks and balances on safety, the biotech industry is systematically destroying international and national laws on biosafety claiming their products are “as nature made them”. It’s ontological schizophrenia!

    Biosafety is the multi-disciplinary assessment of the impact of genetic engineering on the environment, on public health and on socio-economic conditions. At the international level, biosafety is international law enshrined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. I was appointed to an expert group to evolve the framework by the United Nations environment programmme to implement Article 19.3 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

    Monsanto and friends have been attempting to deny citizens the right to safe food by opposing Article 19.3 since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Currently they are attempting to dismantle national laws on biosafety in India, Pakistan, the European Union, across Africa and Latin America. In the United States, they are distorting the Constitution by suing state governments that have passed labelling laws for GMO (genetically modified) foods by claiming that the citizens’ right to know what they eat is superseded by the biotech industry’s right to impose hazardous foods on uninformed consumers as the freedom of speech of a corporation, as if it were a natural person.

    Their PR machine is deployed to unscientifically attack scientists working on biosafety, such as Árpád Pusztai, Ignacio Chapela, Irina Ermakova, Éric Séralini and myself. Many journalists, having no scientific background themselves, have become soldiers in this PR assault. Privileged white men like Mark Lynas, Jon Entine and Michael Specter, with no practical experience in agriculture, armed only with BA degrees and ties to corporate-controlled media, are being used to undermine real scientific findings about the impact of GMOs on our health and ecosystems.

    Biotech industry uses its PR puppets to falsely claim that GMOs are a solution to world hunger. This denialism of real scientific debate about how living systems evolve and adapt, is backed by an aggressive and massive PR assault, including the use of intelligence agencies such as Blackwater.

    In 2010, Forbes named me one of the seven most powerful women in the world for “putting women front and centre to solve the issue of food security in the developing world”. In 2014, Jon Entine, a journalist, wrote an “opinion” piece on the Forbes website, falsely claiming that I have not studied physics. While I have studied physics at a post-graduate level and done my doctorate on the foundations of quantum theory, I have spent 40 years studying ecology in India’s farms and forests, with nature and wise peasants as my teachers. This is the basis of my expertise in agroecology and biosafety.

    Good science and proven technologies do not need PRs, intelligence agencies or corrupt governments to prove the facts.

    If unfounded attacks on a scientist from a developing country by a non-scientist is one of their tools in shaping the future, they have got it all wrong. They don’t see the growing citizens’ outrage against Monsanto’s monopoly.

    In sovereign countries, where the might of Monsanto and friends is limited, the people and their governments are rejecting their monopoly and failed technology. But this news is suppressed by the PR machine.

    Russia has completely banned GMOs with deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev saying, “If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food”.

    China has banned GMOs in military food supplies. Italy has just passed a law, Campo libre, making planting GMO crops punishable with a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 10,000-30,000 euros. Italian minister of agriculture Nunzia De Girolamo said in a statement: “Our agriculture is based on biodiversity, on quality, and we must continue to aim for these without ventures that, even from the economic point of view, wouldn’t make us competitive.”

    PR pieces in Forbes and the New Yorker cannot stop the awakening of millions of farmers and consumers to the very real dangers of genetically-modified organisms in our food and the shortcomings and failures of the industrial food system which is destroying the planet and our health.

    * Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust. This article was first published by Asian Age



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    Climate change, foreign assistance and food sovereignty in Ghana

    Joeva Rock


    cc TG
    The debate in Ghana over the cultivation of genetically modified seeds provided by international aid agencies demonstrates that foreign aid often comes with an agenda determined by foreign financial and political backers, not by the end-users of the assistance.

    Recent reports on climate change have continuously stressed the unequal burden small states experience in comparison to their relatively low energy consumption. For many developing and low-income nations, this imbalanced and undue drain is the continuance of ongoing historical injustices. In countries like Ghana, environmental destruction by foreign forces is no recent phenomenon. For hundreds of years mineral extraction has laid waste to Ghanaian soil and its forests have been at the mercy of the timber market. Extraction has taken the form of gold, oil, bodies, and more.

    Moreover, many land preservation schemes have been at the behest of Western intermediaries. Thus, many ‘green’ projects, be they conservation or eco-tourism, have revolved around Western logic and development discourses, which often frame problems ‘in tightly defined, bounded terms that suggest logical, linear solutions, strategies and methods used to achieve scientific objectivity (Johnson 1995, p. 115). Approaching environmental conservation from a Western and development standpoint not only infers the use of capitalist logics, but also creates what Barbara Rose Johnson calls a ‘conceptual distancing mechanism’ (1995, p. 115), framing conservation in scientific, objective and achievable terms. Oftentimes such distancing is without regard to the human systems and ecosystems implicated in conservation efforts.

    Amidst the list of consequences of climate change are increased climate irregularities, droughts, warmer temperatures and, as such, food insecurity. In order to tackle current and future uncertainties, scientists and development practitioners are searching for ways to strengthen crop resilience and reduce risks to farmers. One solution that has been proposed is the use of genetically modified (GM) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta are creating seeds that are meant to weather climate crises and are promoted under the promise of Africa’s ‘green revolution’ (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa).
    The push for genetically engineered approaches to agricultural challenges is largely a Western effort, backed by big-name actors such as the Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Bono’s ONE campaign and Millennium Villages (Mittal and Moore 2009, p. 2). Accordingly, the United States incorporates GM seeds in their agricultural and food aid programs. Currently, Ghana is one of 19 countries receiving assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s newest food security venture, Feed the Future. USAID is promoting GM seeds and technology as innovative, smart products that ‘incorporate tolerance to disease, heat, and drought [in order] to increase production while maintaining or improving the nutritional quality of food’ (USAID).

    While at first glance modified seeds and improved crops appear to be a productive way to tackle agricultural insecurities, a large debate is taking place over the use of biotechnology. Recently, adversaries have called for a more holistic approach to address hunger and have ‘concluded that agriculture policy and practice must be changed to [also] address … poverty, social inequalities, and environmental sustainability’ (Mittal and Moore 2009, p. 1). The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development reported that ‘GM crops are unlikely to play a substantial role in addressing the needs of poor farmers’ (Mittal and Moore 200, p.1).

    In Ghana, the anti-GMO movement is led by Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG). The organization’s focus is multifaceted, having grown out of conversation surrounding the
    increasing phenomenon of land grabs, the right to water and sanitation as a fundamental human right, water privatization issues, deforestation, climate change, carbon trading and Africa’s atmospheric space, and in particular, the urgent issue of the introduction of GM food technology (‘About Us’).

    Core to FSG’s work is public education and placing pressure on the government to enact a moratorium on GM seeds. Along with allies, FSG and their wide coalition have testified before parliament, penned editorials and articles for Ghanaian print media, appeared on television and radio shows, organized protests, and regularly worked across civil and political sectors to build partnerships and alliances. This past summer FSG turned down an invitation to the American embassy to discuss biotechnology, citing that the closed-door nature of the meeting was not conducive to engaging public conversation around the matter.

    Similarly to Krista Harper’s Hungarian subjects, FSG’s concerns partially ‘stem from a growing awareness that integration into the global economy [renders postcolonial] countries vulnerable to environmental degradation and other risks’ (Harper 200, p. 230). Of course, environmental dilapidation for profit is nothing new, yet its continuance is magnified in the current globalized, hyper-capitalist economy. Moreover, for FSG, Western encroachment on food sovereignty is a perpetuation of the colonial past. GE technology is colonial partially in that it ‘foster[s] dependency on a corporate, [foreign] seed supply’ (Mittal and Moore 2009, p. 34). In order to emphasize the coloniality of GM food aid, FSG regularly uses terms such as ‘genetically modified colonialism’ to invoke colonial imaginations. Hence, the struggle against GM seeds and technology is much larger than addressing food safety: it is about moving towards true post-colonial independence.

    FSG is not alone. The Oakland Institute explains that ‘Africa has been largely united against GM crops, [choosing] to protect biodiversity over accepting GM food aid’ (Mittal and Moore 2009, p. 7). Thus, a conundrum arises: is USAID obligated to revise its programming if the host country rejects its means of implementation? In this case, if Ghanaian farmers do not want to use genetically modified seeds, are they automatically disqualified from USAID assistance, or does USAID have a mandate/obligation to work with them in other ways?

    African actors have continually emphasized rights to their land, crops, and foodways, arguing that food security, sovereignty and development require structural changes. Such an undertaking does not necessarily correlate with development aid programs, and hence requires reorientation amongst major development practitioners like USAID, the Gates Foundation, AGRA and the World Bank. Moreover, such debates call on governments to pass legislation that protects its farmers, people, and food systems, and that places value on national wants over foreign companies.


    Food Sovereignty Ghana (2013) ‘About Us’,, accessed 5 December, 2013
    Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (2013), accessed 8 December 2013
    Harper, K. (2005) ‘“Wild Capitalism” and “Ecocolonialism”: A Tale of Two Rivers’, American Anthropologist, vol. 107, no. 2, pp. 221—233
    Johnson, B.R. (1995) ‘Human Rights and the Environment’, Human Ecology, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 111—123
    Mittal, A. and Moore, M. (eds) (2009) Voices from Africa: African Farmers and Environmentalists Speak out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa, Oakland, The Oakland Institute
    The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (2012) ‘Climate Change and Food Security’,

    * Joeva Rock is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC, focusing on colonial legacies in West Africa. Follow her on twitter: @southsidetrees


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    Not on our plates! Why Nigeria does not need GM food

    Juan Lopez, Mariann Orovwuje and Nnimmo Bassey


    cc NTA
    A new propaganda effort to convince Africans is vigorously pursued by corporations and the development industry trying to convince us that we need genetic engineering to overcome malnutrition and food shortages.

    The disclosure by the National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) that Nigerian government is working to fast track the adoption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) at a press conference in Abuja (17 July 2014) is shocking for a number of reasons. The agency’s pitch is more or less that if the doors are not officially open to GMOs Nigerians will be consuming them without knowing. The truth is that there are GMO products illegally in Nigeria and the government ought to be protecting the citizens rather than closing the doors on the Precautionary Principle which as the name implies urges caution in matters of this nature.

    The Agency claims the there are enough safeguards in place for the introduction of GMOs into Nigeria. These so-called safeguards include the following: a draft Biosafety Bill, biosafety application guidelines, biosafety containment facilities guidelines, and a variety of forms such as those for accreditation, GMO import and shipment form and a host of drafts. If forms and draft documents are listed as biosafety readiness tools we should ne extremely suspect of such a state of readiness.


    It was only twenty years ago that a genetically modified crop was commercialized in the USA for human consumption purposes for the first time. It was a GM tomato variety called the Flavr Savr. It failed in the marketplace and its commercialization ceased in 1997. That failure has been followed by numerous other failures in the past two decades.

    The biotech industry has made several attempts to commercialize a wide range of GM varieties since the 1990s. However it quickly encountered stiff opposition. For instance in Europe strong opposition against GM foods took root since the end of the 90s and is still strong as of today.

    In 2000 field trials with a variety of GM potato in Bolivia, centre of origin of the potato, were stopped in the face of public opposition. That same year GM potatoes were withdrawn in the US due to commercial failure. In 2002 a number of African countries rejected GM food aid and in 2004 GM wheat was withdrawn from the market due to commercial reasons. China suspended commercialization of GM rice in 2011 and the US did not proceed with wide commercialization either of such products. The failures to market GE staple food in the past twenty years have been very notorious.


    Maize, rice and wheat are the staple food of more than two thirds of the world’s population, but as of now, no wheat and rice has been legally commercialized in the human food chain. As of today, basically the GM crops that have been commercialized are those of soya, maize, oilseed rape and cotton. Most of these products are not intended directly for food, but for animal feed purposes. For instance, GM maize is strongly resisted in many countries like Mexico, centre of origin of maize, where a Federal Court in 2013 ordered that two of the main Mexican authorities for authorizing GM crops must abstain from granting permits of release into the environment of GM maize whether on a commercial or on an experimental basis.

    While most GM crops are planted for animal feeds, those targeted in Nigeria are for our foods. Among the target crops is cassava, a staple for most citizens.


    The few crops commercialized during the past decades were composed only of two traits, and their area of cultivation has been limited to a handful of countries. Over 90% of GM crops grown are only in six countries –USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada and China-, with one country alone accounting for 40 per cent of all GM global area: the USA.

    In any case, in two decades of GM crops commercialization, up to 95% of the staple crops which have been commercialized are insect resistant or herbicide tolerant. The push for the introduction of these type of GM staple crops has been led either directly by the big biotech corporations that developed the product or their subsidiaries.

    None of these traits, however, provides any benefit to the consumer, and none of them as of today has managed to win the heart of the majority of the consumers. For instance, even in the US, the cradle of GM crops, a poll conducted by the New York Times in 2013 concluded that three-quarters of Americans expressed concern about genetically modified organisms in their food, with most of them worried about the effects on people’s health. In The reality of such scepticism has forced the biotech industry to desperately seek to widen its market into Africa. The claim that Europe is influencing Africans to reject GMOs is nothing other than cheap blackmail.


    Roundup Ready (RR), the most popular herbicide in the world, property of Monsanto, claimed when it was introduced that farmers would be able to use less herbicide. On the contrary it has been clearly proofed that, in less than two decades glyphosate resistant plant species have become a serious problem for US farmers and others around the world. This has necessitated the increased use of even stronger herbicides.

    In addition to the growing use of RR, various scientific studies show concerns over health impacts of RR on the humans. A scientific study published in a European scientific review has identified serious health impacts on rats fed on ‘Roundup Ready’ GMO maize.


    Today a new propaganda effort to convince Africans is vigorously pursued by corporations and the development industry trying to convince us Africans that we need genetic engineering to overcome malnutrition and food shortages. Institutions like USAID, and philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are supporting efforts to genetically modify rice and bananas with enhanced levels of Vitamin A with the ostensible aim of keeping African children from being stunted and from going blind. Gates support of the creation of GM staple foods with nutritional traits derives from the fact that “in many developing countries, as much as 70 per cent of an individual’s daily calories come from a single staple food, making it difficult to consume enough vitamins and minerals”. Instead of promoting and supporting food sovereignty and one of its principles –diet diversification- they want us to keep our diet based on one food product for most of the day instead of supporting the tapping on the enormous food diversity existing in our countries, – such us fruits and vegetables, rich in Vitamin A and other valuable Vitamins-.

    In a 2009 report, the Union of Concerned Scientists stated, “recent studies have shown that organic and similar farming methods that minimize the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers can more than double crop yields at little cost to poor farmers in such developing regions as Sub-Saharan Africa.”

    Efforts to co-opt small scale farmers into planting Bt cotton has not fared we’ll without heavy subsidies. The case of the downturn at Makathini Flats, South Africa, is instructive.


    Nigeria does not need GM crops to satisfy its food and agriculture needs. We know exactly what we have to do and the Nigerian National Conference recently raised the caution with regard to the draft National Biosafety Bill. We urge that the President should not assent to the Bill because the draft is deficient in many areas including:

    Public participation: The draft Bill does not make public participation obligatory when applications to introduce GMOs are being considered.

    The Bill does not specify clearly how large-scale field trials would be contained and regulated to avoid contamination of surroundings or farms.

    Besides Environmental NGOs, Farmer organisations are not represented on the Governing Board.

    Risk Assessment: The Bill does not state criteria for risk assessment nor does it stipulate that such assessments must be carried out in Nigeria and not offshore.
    This is important because the effect of the GMO on non-target organisms has to be measured with non-target organisms that exist in Nigeria and are ecologically important.

    Strict liability and provisions for redress are not included in the Bill. These is a key part to implementing the Kuala Lumpur-Nagoya Supplementary Protocol adopted 3 years ago

    Precautionary principle: The Bill should adhere to ensure the implementation of the precautionary principle that entitles our government to decide against approval or for restriction in cases of incomplete or controversial knowledge. This is the essential feature of the CPB, driven by the interests of African negotiators and should be implemented in Nigeria.


    WHAT IS EATING YOU? In 2004, the Kenyan government admitted that Monsanto’s GM sweet potatoes were not any more resistant to feathery mottle virus than ordinary strains, and in fact produced lower yields. In January 2008, news that scientists had modified a carrot to cure osteoporosis by providing calcium had to be weighed against the fact that you would need to eat 1.6 kilograms of these vegetables each day to meet your recommended calcium intake.

    EXTREME COSTS: In India, an independent study found that BT cotton crops were costing farmers 10 per cent more than non-BT variants and bringing in 40 per cent lower profits. Between 2001 and 2005, more than 32,000 Indian farmers committed suicide, most as a result of mounting debts caused by inadequate crops.

    CONTAMINATION: In late 2007, US company Scotts Miracle-Gro was fined $500,000 by the US Department of Agriculture when genetic material from a new golf-course grass Scotts had been testing was found in native grasses as far as 13 miles away from the test sites, apparently released when freshly cut grass was caught and blown by the wind.

    MORE NOT LESS PESTICIDES: BT maize, engineered to produce an insecticidal toxin, has never eliminated the use of pesticides, and because the BT gene cannot be ‘switched off’ the crops continue to produce the toxin right up until harvest, reaching the consumer at its highest possible concentrations.

    Resistance by Nature: Superweeds are emerging as nature evolves to withstand the biotech industry’s chemicals

    CREATING PROBLEMS FOR SOLUTIONS: Herbicide-resistance was sold under the claim that because crops could be doused in chemicals, there would be much less need to weed mechanically or plough the soil, keeping more carbon and nitrates under the surface. But a new long-term study by the US Agricultural Research Service has shown that organic farming, even with ploughing, stores more carbon than the GM crops save.

    HEALTH RISKS: The results of tests on animals exposed to GM crops give serious cause for concern over their safety. In 1998, Scottish scientists found damage to every single internal organ in rats fed blight resistant GM potatoes. In a 2006 experiment, female rats fed on herbicide-resistant soybeans gave birth to severely stunted pups, of which half died within three weeks. The survivors were sterile. In the same year, Indian news agencies reported that thousands of sheep allowed to graze on BT cotton crop residues had died suddenly. Further cases of livestock deaths followed in 2007. There have also been reports of allergy-like symptoms among Indian labourers in BT cotton fields.

    NO HIGHER YIELDS: The story that GM crops yield higher is nothing other than mere stories. Considering that the best seeds are selected for modification, it is a huge minus that GM crops do not generally yield more than natural seeds.

    GMOs are linked to artificial fertilizers and fossil fuels. The use of these two contribute to climate change.

    GMOs depend on industrial, large-scale mono cropping thus negating the facts of our integrated agricultural systems and getting set to promote land grabbing and impoverishment of our population of farmers.

    * This Fact Sheet is issued by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), the ecological think tank. Contributors: Juan Lopez (Biosafety expert), Mariann Orovwuje (Food Sovereignty coordinator, Friends of the Earth Africa) and Nnimmo Bassey (HOMEF).



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    Ban all GM foods in Ghana!

    Food Sovereignty Ghana


    cc VG
    Food Sovereignty Ghana calls for an indefinite Moratorium or ban on the propagation, cultivation, raising, and growing of Genetically Modified Organisms in Ghana.

    We call for a total ban on everything GMO, including but not limited to, the introduction into the environment, contained and confined use or field trials, import, export, GMO in transit, or placement on the market.

    We demand that this ban be put in place until the science of GM foods and human health, as well as environmental impact, has been thoroughly studied and cleared as safe by independent science rather than corporate-driven, profit-oriented scientists and regulators, ridden with conflicts-of-interest.

    There is a gigantic global attempt to impose GMOs into our food chain through deals made by transnational agribusiness corporations with our political elites, designed to limit public awareness and exclude public participation. The collusion between the biotech industry and politicians and regulators makes nonsense of their assurances that GM foods are safe.

    Even if the highly questionable claims of increases in food or crop yields, or drought-resistant flood-resistant GM crops were true, the ever increasing amounts of pesticide toxins they contain should prohibit their production or use. Toxic food, regardless of abundance, does not replace safe and edible food.

    GMOs contain massive quantities of pesticides, a huge health threat. Close to 100% of all commercial GMO crops are genetically engineered to contain pesticides, or to absorb huge amounts of pesticides without being killed. When we consume the plants, or eat animals that consume the plants, we consume those pesticides that can injure heart, lungs, nerves, digestion, blood, skin, immunity, and sexual function and development.

    Genetically engineered Bt Crops are engineered to express (produce) the Bt toxin in its active form,. The active toxin is produced in every individual cell of the crops, thus making the entire crop a pesticide. When you eat a genetically modified Bt food crop you are eating pesticides. Bt crops are regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as pesticides (EPA document 735-F-02-013 May 2002). Promoters of GM foods downplay but it does not change the fact that Bt is a pesticide. This is common sense but unfortunately some people are trying so hard to prevent us from thinking for ourselves.

    Vast quantities of GMO crops are herbicide resistant crops. These are grown both for human and for animal consumption. These crops are genetically engineered to absorb massive doses of pesticides that kill weeds, chemicals that are sprayed on the crops repeatedly, sometimes as many as 300 days out of the year. These chemicals are in fact chemical cocktails and include adjuvant chemicals designed to penetrate the plants and cause them to absorb even more of the pesticidal toxins. The adjuvant chemicals, close to 400 of them, are never tested. Testing is not required by law. How safe they are, or what they do when they enter our bodies is anybody’s guess.

    The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the Doctors who understand, study and follow the effects of environmental factors on our health, issued a statement in 2009, on the dangers of GM food and advised all their members to prescribe non GM foods to their patients. Just last week, we saw in the news, a call by Lieutenant General Mi Zhen-yu, former vice president of the Chinese Academy of Military Science, on the Chinese government to“face up to reality” about the harm from genetically modified food.

    The General provides specific numbers on the increases in birth defects, severe depression, precocious puberty in girls, autism, childhood cancers, male sperm quality and infertility, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. “The situation is shocking.” Why are those who claim GMOs are safe are opposed to any long-term independent studies in toxicity? Why are they against labelling?

    GMOs, and the legal framework that permits and sustains them, are not business as usual but an orchestrated attempt to control our food, our land, our water. GMOs and their legal framework offer foreign corporations permanent control over our destiny as individuals and as a nation. These laws, the Biosafety Act, Seed Laws, and UPOV laws such as the Plant Breeders Bill are sometimes referred to as weapons of legal destruction. They place corporate interests and greed above the laws of nations. They leave the entire budgets of nations vulnerable to corporate whims.

    Considering recent revelations that Parliamentarians take bribes, the glaring absence of even a minimum code of conduct for Parliamentarians regarding lobbying, and the mischievous and untenable attempts by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to impose UPOV on Ghanaians under the guise of meeting WTO requirements although UPOV law such as the current PBB is clearly not required by the WTO, we have every right to lose faith in them.

    We humbly call on the Mahama administration to cease all advocacy for GMOs and their legal framework, until the science of GM technology has been cleared by independent science. That will take awhile, as currently the agribusiness companies that own the GMO patents do not permit independent scientific testing, they ask us to trust what they tell us about the testing they conduct.

    Technology currently exists that is developing drought-resistant, pest resistant and high yielding crops through traditional breeding and selection. Marker Assisted Agro-ecological farming is not only inexpensive, and sustainable, it is far more successful than GM technology. Agroecological techniques are already safely and inexpensively producing crops with increasing yields plus tolerance and resistance to environmental stressors.

    We should forget GMOs and concentrate on agroecological agriculture. The only reason why our “development partners” are opposed to this is because their multinational corporations shall lose the attempts to monopolize our food through GMO patents. They see our agricultural wealth as raw material to be extracted from Ghana in order to power their economic engine. We need to control and develop our agricultural wealth to power Ghana’s economic engine.

    For Life, The Environment, and Social Justice!




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    Ghana: Halt the passage of the Plant Breeders’ Bill! - Religious bodies


    cc FPD
    The religious organisations insist that Ghana’s dwindling food production cannot be attributed to our non-usage of GMO technologies but due to poor access roads to farms, lack of credit, unavailability of ready market, lack of storage facilities and agricultural processing


    On the 19th of June 2014 Faith-Based Organizations, in collaboration with Action Aid Ghana, Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development and Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana with sponsorship from STAR-Ghana, met at the National Secretariat of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference to discuss the current debate on the Plant Breeders’ Bill and the Genetically Modified Organisms. The session brought together diverse Faith-Based Organizations including; Office of the National Chief Imam, National Catholic Secretariat, Federation of Muslim Women of Ghana, Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana Muslim Mission, Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, Religious Bodies Network for Climate Change, Marshallan Relief and Development Services and Ahlussuna Wal Jama’a. We hereby state that our position on the debate has become necessary due to the importance of agriculture in the Ghanaian economy and the negative implication of Plant Breeders’ Bill and GMOs to the Ghanaian food sovereignty.

    As key stakeholders in the democratic processes in Ghana with a large following that cut across ethnic, social and political divides across the country, we resolved and agreed on the following for consideration by Parliament:

    Our Concerns

    1. Many Ghanaians are not aware of or understand what is contained in the Plant Breeders’ Bill. There has not been adequate public education and consensus on the Bill. We are alarmed by attempts by Parliament to pass the Bill without adequate consultation with key stakeholders including the Faith-Based Organizations. Citizens of the diverse faiths constitute over 90% of the Ghanaian population.

    2. We are interested in issues of agriculture and this is manifested through the several investments the FBOs have made in agricultural projects across the country. Our practical experience in working in the agricultural sector indicate that Ghana’s dwindling food production cannot be attributed to our non-usage of GMO technologies but due to poor access roads to farms, lack of credit, unavailability of ready market, lack of storage facilities and agricultural processing. We therefore suggest to Government and Parliament to redirect efforts and resources in these areas rather than falling for cheap and quick fix solutions that have the potential of compromising the future of our constituents and the danger of Ghana losing her right to food sovereignty to multi-national companies.

    3. The speed at which Government and Parliament are running with the Plant Breeders’ Bill which will lead to the legitimization of GMOs leaves much to be desired.

    We therefore make the following recommendations in the interests of the Ghanaian public and our hardworking farmers:

    1. We suggest Parliament suspends the passage of the Bill in its present state till there is adequate public information on the pros and cons of the Bill.

    2. We call for the withdrawal of the current Bill to allow for in-depth analysis and to build national consensus. We further call for the redrafting of the Bill to address the concerns of interest groups such as farmers, local seed producers, local researchers and consumers.

    3. We encourage Parliament to assume a non-partisan approach in engaging with stakeholders who have concerns on the Bill.

    4. We call on the President of the Republic, as a matter of urgency, to intervene in halting the passage of the Bill till there is clarity. Should Parliament proceed to pass the current Bill, we further call on the President to exercise his prerogative of refusing assent to it in the interest of Ghanaians and his personal vision of encouraging home grown solutions.

    Released by

    1. National Catholic Secretariat of Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (NCS/GCBC) – 0244318807
    2. Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) – 0262937184
    3. Marshallan Relief and Development Services (MAREDES) – 0244366622
    4. Federation of Muslim Women of Ghana (FOMWAG) – 0244881009
    5. Ghana Muslim Mission (GMM) – 0200995717
    6. Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission of Ghana (AMM-G) – 0244863931
    7. Religious Bodies Network for Climate Change (RELBONET) – 0244023542 / 0244616768.
    8. Ahlussuna Wal Jama’a (ASWAJ) – 0244023542
    9. Office of the National Chief Imam (ONCI) – 0244212796

    GMO/hybrid seeds: Inviting cancer to our land, passing a death sentence on Nigerians: A response

    Abdallah el-Kurebe


    cc GLP
    In a response to Mr Rhodes-Vivour’s article on the danger posed by GMOs to the Nigerian population, El-Kurebe now contends that such crusades by a misinformed and gnorant minority are denying the majority of the population the real benefits of genetically modified organisms.
    ‘People are always entitled to their OPINIONS but not their FACTS’

    Over time, there have been repeated tales by many people (especially from the non-scientific class) that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are dangerous for human consumption; that they have resulted in sicknesses and subsequent death of a number of people across countries.

    One such campaign of misinformation has been launched, this time by an Architect, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour on Monday, 19 May 2014 at Rhodes-Vivour, as an architect, should know more about building designs than scientific issues that are related to laboratory researches. This author is hardly an authority in any scientific field, including biology, chemistry or agriculture. He is not known to have carried out any research or collaborated with any scientist to arrived on a result that GMOs are harmful to humans.

    In his ‘GMO/hybrid seeds: Inviting cancer to our land, passing a death sentence on Nigerians,’ Rhodes-Vivour assumed that it is inappropriate for the Agriculture Minister to have stated that ‘Appropriate regulatory agencies would be put in place to check the benefits and risks associated with such foods.’ It is needless to burden readers with the stories of regulatory frameworks that are being put in place for the advancement of agriculture in Nigeria. But it is important to remind us that Nigeria’s biosafety bill, which has been in development for nearly 15 years now, was finally enacted into law by the Senate on 1 June 2011. This bill provides for the establishment of regulatory agencies while researches that are backed by field trials are taking place in many universities across the country.

    In the interim, the federal government has established the Biosafety Office at the Federal Ministry of Environment. The Office has commenced the drafting of some of the regulations for effective implementation. This is in anticipation of the signing of the biosafety bill into law by Mr President. The Law calls for the establishment of the National Biodiversity Management Agency under which a biosafety department, expected to be the focal point and authority on biosafety in the country, would be.

    That Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation (167 million) and a food deficit country, is not debatable; that the country’s subsistence agriculture can no longer supply the needs of its growing population, is undoubtedly true. This is the very reason for the country's adoption of agricultural biotechnology and the biosafety law seeks to provide the framework for Nigerian scientists who have done much research to move forward from field trials into commercial testing phases for eventual deployment to farmers.

    Rhodes-Vivour claims that ‘biotech improved tomatoes are engineered so they do not rot quickly... what is not considered is that perishability of that tomato is linked to the human body's ability to digest it.’ This is a deliberate attempt to confuse his readers into veiledly believing his misinformation. ‘Rot’, as used in the piece applies to a ‘fresh’ and ‘uncooked’ tomato. The human body would always be able to ‘digest’ the engineered tomato that is cooked.

    Armed with all traditional connotation, the piece was written entirely without scientific evidences to buttress his argument that GM foods cause cancer. There is no known scientific research which shows that these foods are harmful. In categorical terms, Rhodes-Vivour does not have any peer-reviewed scientific proof published in any journal, which link ‘illnesses, such as organ failure, sterility and cancer’ to GMOs.

    Even amongst scientists, there are few who have ties to the organic or natural products or a history of anti-GM activism, who have called the safety of GM crops into question. In spite of questions by the pessimistic scientists, there is an undoubted weight of evidence of scientific scrutiny. This has overwhelmingly found GMOs provide benefits to both farmers and the environment.

    However, Rhodes-Vivour, an architect that has no knowledge of plant science, in another write-up told of why he joined the crusade against agricultural biotechnology. We all know how anti-GMO personalities are making it big working as crusaders. It is worthy of note any way, that some renowned environmentalists like the celebrated Mark Lynas, now a visiting fellow at the Cornell University, have seen the scientific reasons for the adoption of these technologies. He is now a strong advocate of genetically modified crops.

    For instance, trying to put a human face on beneficiaries of biotech, Lynas has noted that although scientists have developed a biotech virus-resistant solution for the crop, farmers may not be able to access it. ‘It's really very tragic because it's holding back technology that has the potential to do a lot of good. I like to put a human face on the beneficiaries. Technology has transformed all of our lives, it is probably the biggest driver of change. Why should it be any different in Africa? When you want change, because people are living in poor, subsistence situations, why should those be the ones who have the least access to technology?’

    In the ongoing debate surrounding genetically modified foods, Lynas, who is a young environmentalist (not an architect), talks about farmers' accessibility to the crops and not its harmfulness. His earlier position before understanding the scientific truth about GM foods was that GM foods were harmful.

    As a Media Fellow of Agricultural Biosciences, I have met and interviewed Lynas; I have visited research centres across the country and research centres and laboratories of seed companies in the US and the UK. I have participated in DNA extraction in plants with scientists in some of these places. In the course of the tests, I have not seen anything ‘playing God’. What I saw was ‘scientific magic’, the way anyone who has never seen an aeroplane sees it for the first time at take off. I have had the privilege to talk with renowned scientists in universities in Nigeria, the US and the UK who are involved in plant breeding. I believe that everything is ‘scientifically natural’.

    ‘Are they playing God?’ This is another resonating question that the advocates of traditional agriculture have continued to ask. All knowledge is from God. He imparts it on whom He wishes. God, as the best Architect who designed a ‘pillar-less’ sky; as the best Creator, who created the Swallow, from which the plane was designed; the Beetle from which the Beetle car was designed; the Snake from which the train was designed and scores of other God-given art, man has always learned from the bountiful knowledge of God to improve on his life. Scientists have continued to borrow from the knowledge of God to improve on the lives of human beings.

    Like his contemporaries, Rhodes-Vivour chose to go it traditional, a reason that propels one to ask that since accidents claim lives of travellers, should the government ban the use of motor vehicles, ships and planes? Should the government enact a law to enforce the use of donkeys and horses to travel to London, Saudi Arabia and so on in order to avoid accidents? Are T\these safer means of transport, especially in this age of advanced technology?

    In all facets of human endeavours, traditional methods of doing everything, including farming have long given way for improved methods. That these methods have associated risks and disadvantages does not foreclose people from adopting them to limit the adverse effects of the risks. This brings the reason for frameworks (biosafety laws). It is the same way that road/air traffic laws are put in place to reduce rates of accidents.

    I do not intend to stand in for Monsanto or any seed company but for reason and records, which speak for the real situation of Indian farmers. The anti-GMO groups have had over the years, no better arguments than that the multi-national seed companies are agricultural evils. Therefore, in following cue of his sponsors, Rhodes-Vivour alleged in his write-up that ‘Official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture confirm more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves in India each month’. No one would say that Indian farmers do not ‘kill themselves’ (commit suicide) but it will be historically wrong for anyone to tie the suicide of the farmers in India to Monsanto or any seed company for that matter. Those who have knowledge of history on Indian farmers' suicide acts are better informed.

    I think the general public have the right to know the truth and not falsehood. If however the anti-GMO personalities still want to deceive the people, they should be wiser by feeding us ‘improved falsehood’ rather than the repeated lies and fabrications. Indian farmers do sometimes commit suicide, and this is unfortunate. But the fact is such suicides began before the introduction of GM cotton in India in 2002 and therefore independent of Monsanto and GM seeds. Rhodes-Vivour should refer to the report of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a United Nations organisation, which states that suicides among farmers have been decreasing since the introduction of GM cotton, and are no higher among Indian farmers than among the Indian population as a whole.

    As we shall share with readers, research indicates multiple societal issues as contributing to farmers suicides in India. Inclusive of these researchers are the international community that has conducted several studies to identify the reasons for the suicides in India over the last three decades.

    For example in 2008, a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found indebtedness among Indian farmers as linked to numerous causes. These causes include a lack of reliable credit facilities, changes in government policies, cropping patterns, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, and even shifts in the crops planted on the farm. This is a verifiable study for anyone who cares to know the truth.

    Similarly in June 2012, a study on socio-economic impact assessment of Bt cotton in India carried out by the Council for Social Development’s (CSD), identified the key reasons leading to farmer suicides as lack of irrigation facilities, unavailability of timely credit and fluctuating cotton prices over the years. Other studies are, ‘Measuring the Contribution of Bt Cotton Adoption to India’s Cotton Yields Leap,’ International Food Policy Research Institute Discussion Paper 01170, Guillaume P Gruere, Yan Sun; ‘Economic impacts and impact dynamics of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in India’, Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, May 15 2012; and Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research Study: ‘Suicide of Farmers in Maharashtra’, January 2006.

    Rhodes-Vivour's assertion that the new seeds were being forced on farmers is nothing more than the normal ignorance portrayed by the anti-biotechnology. In the first place, one cannot count how many conferences have been organised to talk about agricultural biotechnology, where farmers are educated and questions asked on grey areas. I have attended so many such meetings organised by universities, research centres, the National Biotechnology Development Centre, and many others. The most recent meeting that I attended was the Annual Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB Africa) Review and Planning Meeting. This meeting was attended by various leaders of the farming community, including the national president of the Cotton Farmers Association. He was optimistic about the importance of biotechnology to Nigerian farmers.

    While, as it seems, Rhodes-Vivour may not have been involved in farming and therefore does not know the new taste of farmers, I hope too that he is not a failed architect that has taken to crusade against biotechnology and, in the process, work against the general interests of Nigerian farmers. More so, there are growing sales of biotech products in the countries where farmers have access to biotech seeds and buy more of them year after year. In the process, they are not cheated for having to buy the seeds year-in-year-out. They do not regret buying these seeds every year because of the resounding yields and benefits there-from.

    He mentioned some countries, including Brazil where he alleged that millions of farmers took Monsanto to court demanding €6.2 billion as royalties. Does not this contradict situations where regulatory and government approvals have been granted in the United States, Canada, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and other developed countries that test all new products for safety before they are placed on the market?

    I would have expected Rhodes-Vivour to state some benefits of biotech crops to humanity, especially in the face of the present global population explosion. Some of us who have a farming background and who have seen our parents toil hard ONLY to grow not-enough food to feed their families know the striking difference of agricultural biotechnology against the traditional methods of farming.

    In the last part of my response to Rhodes-Vivour's piece, I will attempt to give a brief about plant breeding, genetically-modified organisms and why these are important if we must feed the projected world population of seven billion by 2050. Look out for the last part of this response.

    * El-Kurebe is award-winning Media Fellow of Biosciences for Farming in Africa and President of African Journalists Network for Agriculture. He can be reached at [email protected]


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    Why Uganda needs GMOs

    Michael J Ssali


    cc PZ
    On account of population pressures and diseases that are affecting Uganda’s coffee, maize, banana and cassava production, GMOs are necessary to address the food insecurity and hidden hunger in the country

    On May 21 2014 the Daily Monitor (a local Ugandan daily) carried a photograph of a woman in Karamoja climbing a tree to get wild fruits to feed her family. A local television station, the NTV, had a few weeks before filmed graves of people who had died of starvation in the Karamoja region. According to some press reports an estimated fifty people died in the dry period. The rains had failed and all the crops planted by the farmers in the region had dried up. Elsewhere in western Uganda a river had burst its banks due to heavy rains and the flooding had displaced thousands of people and caused untold damage including washing away a hospital and a few schools. Extreme weather incidences such as these in Uganda, manifested in the form of severe droughts and floods, have become more frequent in the recent years resulting in reduced national agricultural production.


    The country, where the average woman produces 6.2 children (, has the fastest growing population globally after Niger and Mayotte. However its population is not growing as fast as its food production. Due to population pressure the farmers are working on smaller plots caused by land fragmentation. The soil is exhausted and due to financial limitations most farmers are unable to access high yielding seeds, fertilizers or to carry out irrigation. Some of the country’s main food crops such as bananas and cassava are under attack by pests and diseases and they are fast dying out, further threatening food security. Statistically Uganda is Africa’s leading banana producer and it is only next to India internationally. However, over the years, because of the Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW), Uganda’s annual US $ 550 million worth production of bananas has reduced to US $ 350 million, according to Jerome Kubiriba, head of the Banana Research Project. Bananas are the main food crop in central and much of western Uganda. BBW, a pest caused disease, has proven incurable so far and the crop’s destruction continues to spread.

    Cassava which is a staple food in Eastern and northern Uganda is under attack by the cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and the cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) The two diseases have reduced yields to less than half the potential (Uganda Bureau of Statistics). Maize production is declining due to increasing incidences of drought which have caused as much as 70 percent crop loss or more in some cases --- like in Karamoja as mentioned earlier in this article.


    The country’s main cash crop, Robusta coffee, has been attacked by the coffee wilt disease (CWD) which has reduced the crop stock by 55 percent according to Mr. Joseph Nkandu, Executive Director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE). Only a few years ago the country saw the arrival of the coffee twig borer (CTB) which according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) caused a reduction of 3.7 percent in the country’s total coffee export and a loss of US $18.1 million in 2011. The loss is a lot bigger in 2014 because of the increased severity of CTB infestation at between 6 percent and 12 percent across the country.


    The country has other food related issues such as malnutrition. Thousands of its people suffer from what Harvest-Plus --- an anti-hunger global organization --- has described as ‘hidden hunger’. It is a form of malnutrition caused by the lack of micronutrients in the food eaten by most poor people. They eat staple foods such as potatoes, bananas, or cassava and fill their tummies yet they continue to suffer from malnutrition or hidden hunger, because such food crops don’t have the vital nutrients such as iron, Zink, and Vitamin A which the World Health Organization categorizes as the most limiting nutrients to healthy living. Without sufficient micronutrients in their diet, children’s growth slows down, their brains don’t develop properly, they may become blind, and generally they risk failure to develop strong immune systems. All people need to eat a well- balanced diet, comprising of a variety of food items such as fruits, vegetables, fish and animal products, to live healthy, productive lives but this has proven difficult to achieve especially among the poor people in Uganda. The country now has embarked on providing bio-fortified sweet potato vines and beans for the local small farmers to grow so as to reduce malnutrition among pregnant women and children. Using bio-technology scientists across the world have succeeded to fuse iron, Zink, and Vitamin A into the native food crops which have been eaten for generations. Bio-fortified sweet potatoes and beans have been easily accepted by the poor since they taste like the same beans and sweet potatoes that have been their main diet for ages.


    Uganda has often been described as having “lush green forests, abundant rainfall and a surfeit of other sources of water” but, unknown to most people, despite its unique agro-climatic conditions the country is very prone to crop and animal diseases and its agriculture is facing devastating challenges. The farmers’ crops are getting killed and wiped out. Sensitive to the challenges, Uganda has for close to fifteen years now been investing in biotechnological research and development including genetic engineering (or GM technology) in an effort to overcome the diseases that appear set to wipe out its major food and cash crops. It has trained scientists and built modern biotechnology laboratories besides providing funding for development of improved food crop varieties such as disease resistant cassava and banana as well as drought resistant maize and other technologies. Can anyone imagine Uganda without bananas, maize, cassava, or coffee?


    The laboratories are carrying out GM research on banana, maize, cotton and cassava. At Kawanda Research Station (near Kampala) genetic modification (GM) research is going on to develop bananas resistant to the devastating banana bacterial wilt and to produce bananas rich in vitamin A to curb malnutrition. Cotton is undergoing GM research at Serere (Eastern Uganda) and Kasese (Western Uganda) to achieve Ballworm resistance and herbicide resistance. The overall aims are to enhance cotton yields and quality of lint by limiting pest damage to cotton bolls and to improve weed management. Maize is undergoing GM research for drought tolerance and adoption to the hazards of global warming. Cassava is undergoing GM research at Namulonge (near Kampala) to come up with varieties resistant to cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak disease. These are efforts going on in Uganda to save Ugandan crops and carried out by Ugandans themselves. Some success has been registered with some of them but a lot of work is still yet to be done. The country already has a National Biotechnology and Bio-safety Policy (2008) and has also put in place a team of scientists and other stakeholders, the Uganda Biotechnology and Bio-safety Consortium (UBBC), whose mandate is to support and uphold safe and responsible use of biotechnology for national development. The government has also opened up a debate on the Biotechnology and Bio-safety Bill which is still ongoing. As a signatory to the Cartgena Protocol, Uganda is seeking to legalize and formalize its use of biotechnology products and wants a law in place before improved varieties from biotechnology can be passed on to the farmers for planting.

    In the recent years the Uganda Coffee Research Institute at Kituuza in Mukono District identified some nine high yielding Robusta coffee varieties that are resistant to the devastating coffee wilt disease and so far some 2 million plantlets of the varieties have been produced by tissue culture technology at AGT Laboratories near Buloba along Kampala-Mityana Road.

    Due to lack of correct information however there are some people who think that it is unsafe to eat GM foods, and that GMOs are a time bomb for Africa and Uganda in particular. The truth is that strict laws govern biotechnology products and they undergo a lot of assessment stipulated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) let alone the UBBC, here in Uganda. No government worth its salt would invest money in research projects whose products would kill or maim its people. Africa must begin to trust science and to support scientific research for the benefit of its own people. Many refer to GMOs as manmade and prefer to eat “natural food” in order to be safe. But they travel in cars, trains, and airplanes which are manmade and they feel safe. The natural way to travel from Uganda to Cape Town would be to walk, but who still does that?


    Others think that GMOs are special crop seeds imported into the country to discourage our farmers from growing the traditional crops. The aim is totally different because the country is interested in ensuring food security for its people and to enhance agricultural productivity. Farming will be a lot cheaper when the farmers don’t always have to irrigate their maize or weed their crops. The people will be a lot healthier when they eat food enhanced with vital nutrients without having to struggle getting all the fruits and the other natural sources of the nutrients.

    As a cotton growing country, Ugandans should do well to remember the words of the Right Honorable Paterson MP Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom, contained in a speech he made at Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts on June 20 2013: “GM cotton provides farmers with in-built protection against pests which can otherwise halve yields. So the farmer benefits through insurance against losses and reduced input costs. There are environmental benefits through reduced insecticide use. The impacts of this are profound, particularly in developing countries where cotton tends to be grown. India went from being a net importer of cotton to a major exporter within a decade of GM cotton being approved in 2002. It is estimated that there has been a 216-fold increase in GM cotton uptake in India from 2002 to 2012. This translates to an enhanced farm income from GM cotton of some $12.6 billion for Indian farmers, coupled with a 24 percent increase in yield per acre and a 50 percent gain in cotton profit among smallholders. Simultaneously, the quantity of insecticides used to control cotton bollworm reduced by 96 percent from over 5,700 metric tons to as low as 222 metric tons of active ingredient in 2011.”

    *Michael J Ssali is a coffee and banana farmer in Lwengo District, Southern Uganda. He is also a journalist. He writes a weekly column in the Daily Monitor titled: “Farmers Diary.”



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    GM: good crop/bad crop

    Ivo Vegter


    cc IN
    The conservative views of international agencies and rich-world environmentalists are denying Africa access to technology that could improve its own food security, and is transforming agriculture elsewhere in the developing world
    Felix M’mboyi, a Kenyan scientist, made world headlines late last year when he denounced the opponents of genetic modification in agricultural crops. “The affluent west has the luxury of choice in the type of technology they use to grow food crops, yet their influence and sensitivities are denying many in the developing world access to such technologies, which could lead to a more plentiful supply of food,” Mr M’mboyi, executive director of the African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, an industry association based in Kenya, told the Guardian newspaper. “This kind of hypocrisy and arrogance comes with the luxury of a full stomach.”

    It is strong language, but the science seems to back him up. Africa needs to increase its food production by 40%, says the International Food Policy Research Institute. Nearly 3.5m children die of malnutrition every year, according to the World Health Organisation. Agricultural technology alone will not solve these problems. But it has an important role to play in what Calestous Juma, a professor in international development at Harvard and author of “The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa”, calls the “toolbox” at the disposal of African farmers in the face of rising challenges.

    Many anti-GM campaigners maintain that the technology will not benefit small- scale farmers in developing countries, but only enrich multinational agriculture services companies. However, recent research casts doubt on these claims. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) released a report on February 7th 2012 that found that 90% of the 16.7m people who grew GM crops on 162m hectares worldwide in 2011 were small-scale farmers in developing countries with limited access to resources.

    Some have questioned these figures because ISAAA is a New York-based non-governmental organisation that promotes GM crops. The free choice of farmers in China, for example, is questionable. In Brazil, most of the gains have been from large commercial farms. In India, while there appears to be a correlation between the adoption of GM crops and increased yields, closer analysis shows other factors may have been at least as important.

    Writing in South Africa’s Farmer’s Weekly, Hans Lombard found that small-holder farmers call maize inoculated with the Bt gene iyasihluthisa, which means, “it fills our stomachs”. In 2010, some 20,000 hectares were planted with such maize and yields increased by 60%. One rural chief reported that yields increased from 1.5 tonnes a hectare to 4 tonnes a hectare, thanks to Bt maize, with significant savings on insecticide costs. Another reported extra income of R2,000 (about $230) per hectare for each of the 20 small-scale farmers in his district, thanks to higher maize production. A farmer in Soweto, near Johannesburg, told Lombard: “I paid R344 ($40) a hectare for Bt seed compared to R172 ($20) a hectare for conventional maize. My yield difference was 9,650kg a hectare compared to 7,200kg a hectare. My profit on the Bt maize was R13,166 ($1,500) [per hectare] compared to R9,908 ($1,125). With Bt maize I have financial benefits and enjoy a better quality of life.”

    South African farmer Mark Coulson chose to switch to GM maize because it reduced spray applications by half, which cut production costs and implied less chemical exposure down the food chain. It also led to lower diesel and mechanical costs as well as less chemical exposure to the farmer and his workers. “Economically it made sense. Environmentally it also made sense,” he wrote in a letter.

    Why would farmers adopt a GM strategy if they thought it would result in their eventual impoverishment, the ruination of their land, or the ill health of their customers? And what would induce environmentalists in developing countries, far from the dusty soil of Africa, to denounce these choices?

    Besides disputes about whether or not GM crops benefit small-scale farmers, as opposed to only large commercial operations, one factor might be the slow dripping of research studies that claim to have found damaging health effects in laboratory animals fed with GM foods. A recent example is a study conducted by French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini, which made headlines thanks to horrifying photographs of rodents with large, presumably cancerous, tumours.

    No sooner were the results released, however, than scientists, regulators, and even formerly sympathetic environmental journalists began tearing into the study. Mr Séralini and his colleagues were guilty of selectively presenting their data to exaggerate their findings, critics said.

    Meanwhile, elsewhere in France, Agnés Ricroch, a lecturer in plant genetics at AgroParisTech and adjunct professor at Penn State University in the United States, performed a review of existing research that was funded by public money to eliminate bias introduced by private commercial interests. She and a team of toxicologists and biologists examined 24 studies on the long-term effects of GM food on a wide range of animals. None of the studies found any significant health impact in the animals under observation, according to their review published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology Journal

    Likewise, no credible studies have yet found significant risk to humans who consume GM food. For the most part, the chemical composition of these foods does not differ substantially from their non-GM counterparts, so the risks they pose are no different. Safety standards set by international agencies are based on content, rather than on the production process.

    In a study published in the biotech journal Landes Bioscience, which is based in Austin, Texas, Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot, consultants to the commercial agriculture industry, found that between 1996 and 2011, the combined impact of insect and herbicide resistance has resulted in an overall decrease of 17.6% in the use of these chemicals. If that sounds relatively small, consider that it saved 443m kg of these chemicals. Farmers save a great deal of money and avoid the unintended consequences of chemical use, such as health risks to consumers and farm workers, and reduce negative environmental outcomes.

    In another paper, the two economists assessed GM crops’ economic impact on worldwide yields for the four primary GM crops: soybeans, maize, cotton and canola. They examined production costs, farm income and indirect farm-level income effects and found substantial net economic benefits at the farm level, worth $14 billion in 2010 alone.

    Much of this economic benefit derives from genetic modifications that result in higher yields per hectare, increased drought resistance that makes marginal or degraded land more productive, and the reduced need for physical and mechanical labour to combat weeds. The ISAAA report cited above finds similar economic benefits, of which 55% accrued to the developing world, and 45% to developed countries. Besides improved farm productivity and lower environmental impact, GM crops also play a significant role in food fortification—the addition of desirable nutritional traits such as higher vitamin or protein levels to crops that otherwise lack them—and solving other health-related problems.

    Africa is no stranger to fortified food. So-called “quality protein maize”, or QPM, a type of maize created by selective breeding to double its protein content, was introduced half a century ago. It is used to combat child malnutrition and HIV infection. The vast majority of this cultivar is today planted in Africa. A paper in the journal AgBioForum , by Carl Pray and others, described this hybrid as “both a technical and commercial success” despite the need for frequent seed repurchases. Another conventionally-bred hybrid, known as “orange-fleshed sweet potato”, or OFSP, increased yields and reduced childhood vitamin A deficiency in children by 24%, according to the paper.

    But here, too, this technology has encountered opposition from environmental groups such as Greenpeace. That opposition is denounced by Patrick Moore, a founder of the organisation who controversially left it over its increasingly radical stance. He calls environmental opposition to GM food a “crime against humanity”. Mr Moore’s argument is that beta-carotene-enriched rice, known as “Golden Rice”, is no different from cultivars produced by selective breeding. He told BiotechNow magazine: “Other GM rice varieties are able to eliminate micronutrient deficiency in the rice-eating countries, which afflicts hundreds of million people, and actually causes between a quarter and half a million children to go blind and die young each year because of vitamin A deficiency because there is no beta carotene in rice. We can put beta carotene in rice through genetic modification, but Greenpeace has blocked this.” If Golden Rice succeeds, other nutrition-fortified staples will soon follow; most notably protein-enriched potatoes, cassava with many GM improvements including increased vitamins, iron, zinc, and protein, as well as agronomic traits, and a similarly- improved strain of sorghum.

    However, the Pray paper warns that Mr Moore may be right about the op- position to GM foods jeopardising the success of food biofortification. Conversely, it says, the demand for fortified food has not led to the acceptance and success of GM technology.

    GM is not a silver bullet. GM crops are bred to be resistant to herbicides, but weeds also develop herbicide resistance over time. As in conventional farming, herbicides and pesticides need to be rotated to reduce this threat. Public fear about GM food may also pose a policy challenge to African governments.

    Some opponents of GM crops have charged that biotech seed companies aggressively pursue lawsuits for patent infringements against farmers whose crops were inadvertently cross-pollinated by plants from neighbouring farms. However, a federal court in Manhattan earlier this year dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought by some 300,000 farmers, represented by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association in the US, against Monsanto, a major GM seed vendor viewed as a “bully” by anti-GM activists. The court found that none of the plaintiffs had actually been sued or suffered any damages, and that the average of 13 lawsuits filed by Monsanto per year pales in comparison with the approximately 2m American farms.

    Countries that seek to take advantage of GM farming would be wise to establish seed banks to conserve non-GM varieties. This would not only ensure genetic diversity for research purposes, but also provide insurance. Should future risks or the commercial behaviour of GM seed companies demand it, such seed banks would give farmers access to stock that is not burdened by patent claims. Such a policy can effectively counter fears that supposedly unsophisticated poor-world farmers are seduced into buying GM seed only to end up on a treadmill of purchasing GM seeds every season, losing the ability to return to ordinary multi-harvest seed.

    Labelling policies based on voluntary disclosure and the prevention of fraud are relatively easy to administer. If farmers or retailers claim their food is free of GM ingredients, these claims must be testable and truthful. Conversely, mandatory labelling of GM food is complex, and imposes significant costs on GM food that artificially makes it less competitive.

    Professor Juma is concerned that only four African countries—South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso, and this year, Kenya—have to date permitted imports of GM crops. The evidence is that Mr M’mboyi is right. The conservative views of international agencies and rich-world environmentalists are denying Africa access to technology that could improve its own food security, and is transforming agriculture elsewhere in the developing world.

    * Ivo Vegter is a South African columnist writing on economics, politics, law and the environment, and is the author of “Extreme Environment” a book on how environmental exaggeration harms emerging economies. In 2011, he was a finalist for the prestigious international Bastiat Prize for Journalism, which recognises work that promotes a free society. This article was first published by Africa in Fact



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    Call for participation to the 8th Pan African Congress


    The next Pan African Congress will be held in four months time. Nations, organizations and individuals from around the Pan African world are invited to offer support prepare for this event


    On behalf of the International Preparatory Committee (IPC] for the Pan African Congress, I would like to invite you and your organization to participate at the congress scheduled to be held in Accra, Ghana, 4-9 November 2014. The congress in keeping with the broad character of all previous congresses, 1900- 1,994, will be open to all shades of opinion, groups and individuals in the whole Pan African world. In addition, African governments on the continent and in the Diaspora will participate on an equal footing with other delegates. The African union and its organs and institutions as well as regional economic blocs and platforms will also participate.

    Recognizing the African Union vision of “Peace, Prosperity and Unity", the broad theme of the Congress is: “The pan-African World We Want: Building a people’s movement for just, accountable and inclusive structural transformation.”

    The Committee has put forward the following issues for discussion at the Congress, without any prejudice to the right of all participants to include other matters or topics on the Agenda:

    • The foundational roots of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance/Contemporary dynamics of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance in the 21st century
    • Global African citizenship and the struggles for human and peoples' rights, dignity, popular democracy and social justice
    • Reparative justice for historical and on-going injustices
    • State and conditions of the Africans and Afro-descendants on the continent and in the global African family
    • People of Faith, Secular States and communities in the Pan-Africanist world
    • Creating a Union of African States and conditions for Africans on the o continent and in the global African family for full unification of the Africa
    • Governing migration (forced and voluntary), free movement of people, and realizing full African citizenship
    • Education, science, innovation and technology for liberation
    • African arts, culture and media
    • Transforming, integrating and governing the African economy (including natural resources management and ecological justice):
    • Environmental justice and the right to a healthy ecology
    • Democracy, governance, peace and security as key pillars and enablers for Ethe advancement of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance (examine the roles of the state, private sector and civil society in propelling Pan- Africanism and the African Renaissance).
    • Pan-Africanism ,the emancipation of women, women,’ rights, humanization of men and leadership of the women's movement: gender, masculinities & power dialogue
    • Pan-Africanism, youth leadership, participation and empowerment: lnter- generational dialogue

    • Pan-Africanism and the role of the Global Pan African community - beyond States and inter-governmental bodies
    • Addressing last outposts of colonialism
    • Addressing all forms of sexism, racism, xenophobia and intolerance - Equality, identity and inclusion
    • Africa's relations with the rest of the World (East, West and South-South) in the context of globalization and threats of re-colonization;
    • Challenges and prospects for the revival and sustenance of the pan Africanist Movement-Organization, Mobilization & Representation

    Individual and group positions and representations are encouraged. However, we are particularly encouraging various national/region at committees of the Congress and thematic groups to hold broad discussions and mini-congresses of their own before November 20L4 so that delegates of the Congress will spend longer time examining the practical and action implications of the Positions from thematic clusters and regional committees. It is the overriding desire of the Planning Committee that the Congress is not just a forum for ideas but a holistic opportunity to formulate a Plan of Action.


    To ensure depth of discussions and effectiveness of the Congress, it has been necessary to limit the number of delegates (with full voting powers on the programme/policy matters) to a maximum of 2 for every organization. However, organizations can sponsor as many individuals as possible to be participants. Due to limitation of resources and vast nature of the task of convening the congress, we are appealing to invited delegates and organizations to solicit sponsorship for their own participants. The IPC, Governing Council and Government of Ghana will endeavour to provide meeting venues, visa facilitation and to a limited extent domestic transportation. Traditionally /historically this self-reliance has always been our strength and the reason why as a people inspired of all the historical pillage, genocide and damnation that we have suffered we are still surviving.

    We are looking for alternative material and human resources to maintain the PAM Secretariat, capacitate the Ghana Local Organizing Committee (LOC) to perform all necessary tasks leading to the Congress. Before we look outside it is only proper to look within amongst ourselves first. In this vein, we are asking all participating organizations to make contributions of the equivalent of USDS300 towards running costs of the congress. Should you not be able to afford this, we shall gratefully receive any amount you can avail. No amount is too great or too little.

    I will shortly share with you and post of the PAM Secretariat website a copy of the concept Note developed by the Planning committee to guide the organization of the congress. Also posted on the website is a call for institutional and individual volunteers. The 8th PAC will consist of Core- organized and Self-organized events with the 8th PAC Village/space. You will be expected to share a one-page abstract of proposed self-organized events and approximate number of participants to enable us to allocate space and include on the expanded 8th PAC programme.

    The time to the Congress is very short, but our collective swift action will enable us to convene a successful 8th Pan Africanist congress.

    We look forward to hearing from you very soon.

    Major-General Kahinda Otafire, Chairman Pan African Movement

    Understanding the Emerging Powers Footprint in Africa: A Civil Society Perspective and Guideline

    Online course


    Ten sponsored places are available for applicants for this course that intends to strengthen civil society's understanding of and engagement with Global South nations whose presence is growing in Africa

    Administered by: Tuliwaza Programme – Emerging Powers Project

    Based at: Fahamu - Networks for Social Justice

    The Emerging Powers programme based at Fahamu is offering a 10-day online course analyzing the footprint of Africa’s engagements with emerging powers from the Global South. The course provides a unique opportunity for civil society practitioners (in particular activists, community-based leaders, undergraduate and postgraduate students, commentators, journalists and trade unionists) to unpack and debate the nature of the relationship between Africa’s regional economic communities and key actors from the Global South. The course is designed to provide insights into the linkages and influences these emerging powers have had on the ‘Africa rising’ narrative and the continent’s integration into the international system.

    Undoubtedly, the rise of Southern actors (such as Brazil, China, India, the Gulf States, South Korea, and Turkey) has unleashed a new wave of research and media inquiries into the impact that these actors are having on continental processes, especially on intra-regional trade, natural resource governance, social development, nepotism and corruption, environmental concerns related to infrastructure projects and extractive industries as well as the pending effect on Africa’s development prospects and public diplomacy. While African governments have enjoyed a more than robust and warm engagement with some of the actors, African civil society groups have found themselves at the margins of trying to shape the debate and actually play a monitoring role. This has led to differentiated responses and reactions by civil society actors in trying to serve the interests of their constituencies in formulating a sustained response in holding these actors and respective African governments accountable and transparent about the nature of the footprint of the emerging powers in the continent’s external engagements. As a contribution to empowering civil society actors in gaining the appropriate knowledge and developing the necessary tools to articulate an informed perspective on the emerging powers in Africa and the corresponding impact, this 10-day course is aimed at building the following competencies:


    • To be able to define, discuss and compare the relationship between the various Emerging Powers and African governments in respective sub-regional settings;
    • To distinguish the political, social and economic footprint of the Emerging Powers in Africa’s landscape.
    • To gauge the strengths and weaknesses of Africa’s relationship with the Emerging Powers.
    • To understand what factors and issues shape Africa’s engagement with the emerging powers and vice versa?
    • To assess the impact the emerging powers have for Africa’s broader external engagements with traditional actors and global processes?
    • To evaluate whether African states can formulate a regional or continental response to their engagement with the Emerging Powers?
    • To critically evaluate the impact of the Emerging Powers on Africa’s identity in global politics.


    • To understand how civil society actors and social justice movements can apply the knowledge on the Emerging powers to their specific needs.
    • To develop monitoring and evaluation strategies on the engagement between African governments and the Emerging Powers.
    • To formulate a critical knowledge base on the behaviour of the emerging Powers in Africa.


    • To strengthen a track two civil society platform on the emerging powers in Africa;
    • To advance online debates, advocacy campaigns, and developing coalitions and partnerships across the spectrum based on collaborative research projects, joint programmes of action and lobbying interventions.
    • To host and develop more people focused forums as alternative platforms to the BRICS Summit, the Forum on China-Africa Forum, World Economic Forum, and the India-Africa Forum Summit.
    • To garner the necessary knowledge tools to engage with regional economic communities and the African Union around a CSO policy response to Africa’s interactions with the Emerging Powers.

    This is an interactive online course, which will be conducted via live Google Hangout video calls and emails between the faculty and participants.
    The last three days are devoted to an assignment that will involve designing an advocacy plan for policy engagement on the Emerging Powers. It is intended that the product of this assignment will be something that you and your organisation can use in the future to help guide your campaigning work. You will be guided throughout the course by an online course tutor.

    Find the course outline here


    There are 10 sponsored places available on this course.
    The current deadline for this round of applications is 25th July 2014.

    Applicants should send an up-to-date CV of not more than 3 pages and a motivation letter outlining their interest in this programme and the Emerging Powers in Africa discourse and the benefit their being part of this programme will add to your organization.

    Applications should be sent to [email protected]

    For further information please contact

    Sanusha Naidu Email: [email protected]
    Edwin Rwigi Email: [email protected]

    * Fahamu ( is committed to serving the needs of organisations and social movements that aspire to progressive social change and that promote and protect human rights. Fahamu has extensive experience in distance learning for human rights organisations.

    The course will be conducted online via Google +Hangouts. Kindly look through this pdf guide on how to use it.

    PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Call for volunteer translators


    Pambazuka News needs volunteers to translate articles. Published weekly in English and French, and every 15 days in Portuguese, our electronic newsletter sometimes translates articles from one language to another. Through this, we aim to break down language barriers, give more audience to relevant analysis for our contributors and encourage exchanges between linguistic communities in Africa and around the world. In this Pambazuka is unique.

    To deal with our increasing translation needs, we are looking for volunteers to strengthen our team of volunteer translators who assist us in this task and contribute to what Pambazuka is.

    We engage to sign all translated articles with the name of their authors.

    If you are a student or professional translator, we are counting on you. Write to the editors at the following address: [email protected]


    Campaigner – Southern Africa (Lusophone Countries)

    Location: Johannesburg Type: Permanent

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s (AI) International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why we’ve opened a hub in Johannesburg. And why we need your campaigning expertise with us on the ground.


    Our Lusophone Campaigner will tackle issues like freedom of expression and association, forced evictions, and abuses in the criminal justice system. As a Campaigner, you can expect to have a direct impact on these key areas, as well as our overarching regional campaigning and research strategies. Focusing mainly on Angola and Mozambique you’ll develop effective, strategic campaigning plans and work with both AI colleagues and external partners to deliver them. You’ll also create clear and compelling campaigning materials for a range of audiences, writing reports and public statements, making videos and web features, and raising awareness and mobilizing our members to effect human rights change. And you’ll constantly look for ways to improve your work too, researching effective campaigning methods, monitoring impact and staying up to date with the latest human rights developments.


    A practised campaigner, you’ll know how to create successful campaign strategies and build awareness through powerful actions and recognized techniques. You’ll also understand the importance of flexibility and be ready to adapt and evolve your plans. We’ll expect you to understand human rights and the political landscape within Southern Africa, both in general terms and specifically, with knowledge of Angola and Mozambique and key thematic areas. You’ll be able to translate that knowledge into campaign materials and creative initiatives that inspire activism online and off, and have the fluency to express complex ideas in English and Portuguese. You’ll have a network of civil society and government contacts and the clout to represent AI to audiences ranging from civil society groups and governments to our global membership. Beyond that, you’ll be a real team player relishing close collaboration with our researchers, colleagues and partners.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing date: 3 August 2014

    Country Campaigner – Great Lakes

    Salary $48,254 Location: Nairobi, Kenya Type: Permanent

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s (AI) International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why we have opened an East Africa Regional Office in Kenya. And why we need your campaigning expertise with us on the ground.

    Our Great Lakes Campaigner will tackle issues like protection of civilians in armed conflict, criminal justice reform, and freedom of expression and association in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a Campaigner, you can expect to have a direct impact on these key areas, as well as on our overarching regional campaigning and research strategies. Focusing mainly on the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, you’ll develop effective, strategic campaigning plans and work with both AI colleagues and external partners to deliver them. You’ll also create clear and compelling campaigning materials for a range of audiences, writing reports and public statements, making videos and web features, and raising awareness and mobilizing our members to effect human rights change. And you’ll constantly look for ways to improve your work too, researching effective campaigning methods, monitoring impact and staying up to date with the latest human rights developments.


    A practised campaigner, you’ll know how to create successful campaign strategies and build awareness through powerful actions and recognized techniques. You’ll also understand the importance of flexibility and be ready to adapt and evolve your plans. We’ll expect you to understand human rights and the political landscape within the Great Lakes Region of Africa, both in general terms and specifically, with knowledge of Rwanda, Burundi and DRC, as well as key thematic areas. You’ll be able to translate that knowledge into campaign materials and creative initiatives that inspire activism online and off, and have the fluency to express complex ideas in English and French. You’ll have a network of civil society and government contacts and the clout to represent AI to audiences ranging from civil society groups and governments to our global membership. Beyond that, you’ll be a real team player relishing close collaboration with our researchers, colleagues and partners.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing Date: 24 August 2014

    Refugee Officer

    Nairobi, Kenya Permanent Salary: $48,254

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. Our East African regional office will work to ensure respect for human rights, and for equal and just societies throughout a vast and diverse geographical area. You’ll contribute to this by supporting our work on refugee rights.


    Based in Nairobi, you’ll work with the East, Horn of Africa and Great Lakes teams to ensure that their information on refugees is accurate and their interventions timely. That means maintaining a broad overview of relevant political and human rights developments in the region and would drive forced migration; systematically collating and analysing information on refugees; liaising with relevant national and local contacts and monitoring media updates and internet searches to keep team members and other regional hubs up to date on refugee trends. You’ll take charge of the regional offices' work with refugees in Kenya and other relevant countries – everything from monitoring the situation of refugees in Kenya and other relevant countries; carrying out case work and making referrals as needed; participating in field research missions and developing campaigns and other interventions to improve the situation for refugees.


    Thanks to similar experience working with refugees, you’ll have no problem systematically documenting and analysing the situation as pertains to refugees; prioritising and coordinating multiple cases and issues. A clear, articulate communicator, you’ll have a high standard of English and French, Arabic or Somali. And as you’d expect, you’ll need excellent research, writing, administrative, and organisational skills as well as plenty of initiative and a proactive approach to problem solving. You’ll show agility and resilience when dealing with change, crucially backed up by your sound knowledge of the East African region. Add to this the political awareness to make sound judgments, and you could soon prove yourself indispensable to the committee members.
    About us
    Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people standing up for human rights. Our network extends to more than two million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries around the world. Each one of us is outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world – and together we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity.

    Closing Date: 24 August 2014

    For more information and to apply, please visit:

    Regional Advocacy Coordinator – Africa

    Salary: $68,699 per annum Location: Nairobi, Kenya


    cc A I
    For more than 50 years, we’ve been campaigning for human rights, wherever justice, freedom and truth are denied. We’ve reshaped policies, challenged governments and taken corporations to task. And in doing so, we’ve changed thousands of lives for the better.

    As Regional Advocacy Coordinator you will play a crucial role in the development, coordination and implementation of AI’s regional advocacy and lobbying activities throughout Africa.


    Working closely with your peers in the regional office, you’ll monitor and analyse developments and advocacy opportunities within the African Intergovernmental bodies (including the African Union, African Commission, the Pan-African Parliament and NEPAD), and provide advice and reports on key developments. That means developing and maintaining effective and strategic working relationships with key stakeholders and civil society partners in the region through information sharing, coordination of advocacy and campaigning. Beyond that, you’ll produce analysis, policy briefs, submissions and other relevant outputs, including the identification of threats, opportunities, trends and geo-politics within the regional bodies relevant for AI advocacy priorities.


    With extensive experience of advocacy and engagement with key the Africa IGOs, and strong knowledge of international relations, human rights law and humanitarian law, you already have the skills necessary to identify, analyse and exploit opportunities for influencing authorities on human rights issues in the region. Your proven political judgement, and relevant experience of research for advocacy purposes will ensure you are able to produce enhanced and systematic monitoring of regional bodies in Africa, and crucially - the consistent delivery of timely and sound political advice on trends, policies and advocacy opportunities.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of more than three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations, human rights education, or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    To Apply: please visit

    Closing Date: 27th July 2014

    Regional Researcher – Great Lakes

    Salary: $68,699 Location: Nairobi, Kenya Type: Permanent

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why we have opened an East Africa Regional Office in Kenya. And why we need your field research expertise with us on the ground.


    As a research-based campaigning organization, investigating and documenting human rights issues is fundamental to our advocacy and lobbying work. Our Great Lakes Researcher will take the lead in initiating human rights research and action from the East Africa regional office by providing regional and thematic expertise, excellent research skills and sound political judgement. A campaign oriented approach to your work is essential. You will be required to conduct and co-ordinate research activities, monitor, investigate and analyse political, legal and social developments and human rights conditions, give authoritative advice on these areas and prepare human rights action materials.
    With experience of working on human rights issues, you must have first-hand in-depth knowledge and experience of Rwanda and Burundi and an understanding and awareness of the cultures of the Great Lakes Region. You'll have a background in activism, academia, law or journalism with the ability to identify and thoroughly investigate those issues and ensure our voice has authority. With your extensive experience of working from the region you will have a strong network and rich experience of undertaking this kind of sensitive work in the field. A natural collaborator, you will need proven research and influential communication skills, impartial political judgement, coupled with strong strategic thought. Fluency in English and French is essential, including excellent writing skills.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they're denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we're applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we're all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing Date: 27 August 2014

    Research, Campaigns and Communication Assistant

    Salary: $37,131 per annum Location: Johannesburg, South Africa


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. Our Southern African regional office will work to ensure equality, democracy and fair and just societies throughout a vast and diverse geographical area. You’ll provide the support they need to succeed.


    Based in Johannesburg, you’ll support the Southern Africa team as they develop and roll out research, campaigning, communication and growth strategies. That means maintaining a broad overview of relevant political and human rights developments; liaising with national and local contacts and monitoring media updates and internet searches to keep team members and other regional offices up to date. You’ll also take charge of the admin – everything from planning field research missions and making travel arrangements, to scheduling meetings and drafting and producing vital documents. Producing regular reports on the budget for the department, you’ll closely monitor expenses throughout the financial year. And coordinating the work of the team in response to crisis, you’ll be central to their ongoing success.


    Thanks to similar experience in a high pressure environment, you’ll have no problem prioritising and coordinating multiple projects with minimal supervision. A clear, articulate communicator, you’ll have a high standard of English and be able to work in Portuguese. And as you’d expect, you’ll need excellent administrative, secretarial and IT skills as well as plenty of initiative and a proactive approach to problem solving. More than that, you’ll show agility and resilience when dealing with change, backed up by regional knowledge of the Southern Africa region. Add the financial awareness to produce accurate budget reports, and you could soon prove yourself indispensable to our regional office team.

    About us
    Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people standing up for human rights. Our network extends to more than two million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries around the world. Each one of us is outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world – and together we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. Southern Africa is an important priority for Amnesty International and its human rights work, therefore you will be joining an exciting team of highly driven human rights advocates and professionals dedicated to deepening the culture of human rights.

    Closing Date: 17th August 2014

    Apply here:

    Researcher - Southern Africa (Lusophone)

    Location: Johannesburg Type: Permanent

    A I

    Amnesty International


    cc A I
    The mobile revolution. Geopolitical power shifts. A radically altered global economy. The world is changing, and so is the way that people fight for their rights. In order to be effective, Amnesty International’s (AI) International Secretariat needs to change how we work. That’s why our Southern Africa Regional Office needs your research expertise with us on the ground.


    Our Southern Africa Researcher will tackle issues like freedom of expression and association, forced evictions, abuses in the criminal justice system and international justice. In order to get the word out about these violations, we need expertly developed research and campaigning strategies. And in this key role, that’s exactly what you’ll deliver. As well as developing specific research projects and strategies, you’ll lead our research and investigations into human rights developments yourself – both at your desk and in the field. Ready to lead assessments of crisis situations and able to prepare thorough security assessments and political briefings, you’ll work as part of a team to make sure our hub research function is as flexible as it is effective. You’ll also understand that building a strong contact network and representing AI externally are central to ensuring your research has impact, as is the credibility and accuracy of your reports.


    A tried-and-tested human rights researcher, you’ll have specialist knowledge of human rights issues and a well-developed understanding of the political landscape in Southern Africa. You’ll have proven your ability to write and adapt research materials for a range of audiences too, and be confident communicating AI’s message externally, both in English and Portuguese. In addition to your meticulous research skills and sharp political judgement, you’ll know how to engage with survivors of human rights abuses. You’ll be an effective multi-tasker able to meet deadlines and manage priorities, and know how to work effectively in a team. Crucially, you’ll have an unwavering commitment to human rights.


    Our aim is simple: an end to human rights abuses. Independent, international and influential, we campaign for justice, freedom and truth wherever they’re denied. Already our network of over three million members and supporters is making a difference in 150 countries. And whether we’re applying pressure through powerful research or direct lobbying, mass demonstrations or online campaigning, we’re all inspired by hope for a better world. One where human rights are respected and protected by everyone, everywhere.

    For more information and to apply, please visit

    Closing date: 3 August 2014

    Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

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