By Nnimmo Bassey
The recent article, GM scaremongering in Africa is disarming the fight against poverty, published in the Guardian’s PovertyMatters Blog on 21 July 2014, is a thinly veiled attack on those of us in Africa and elsewhere who are deeply skeptical of the supposed benefits that genetically modified (GM) crops will bring to the continent. Based on a report by London-based think-tank Chatham House, it represents paternalism of the worst kind, advancing the interests of the biotechnology industry behind a barely constructed façade of philanthropy.
[eap_ad_1] The report itself, compiled from an ‘expert roundtable’ and interviews with donors, policy-makers, scientists, farmers and NGOs (none of whom are identified), makes several erroneous and contradictory arguments concerning the lack of uptake or impact of GM crops in Africa. Firstly, with breathtaking arrogance, it dismisses the massive groundswell of opposition to GM crops emerging across the globe (including here in Africa) as a European-led phenomenon. It further credits lack of uptake to a concerted campaign of ‘misinformation’ by opponents of GM crops and onerous biosafety regulation, resulting in negative political judgments and a ‘treadmill of continuous field trials’.
To take each in turn, perhaps the report’s authors were simply unaware of global opposition to GM crops, or missed the recent Malawian civil society response to Monsanto’s application to commercialise Bt cotton in the country; Or dismissed the recent mass community protestors in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda as merely puppets of European NGOs. That Mexico, the centre of origin of maize, has banned the cultivation of GM maize within its borders was similarly overlooked, as was Peru’s 10-year moratorium on GM crops, enacted in 2012. In 2013 India’s Supreme Court declared an indefinite moratorium on all GM food crops, citing major gaps in the country’s regulatory system, while protests led by farmer groups in the Philippines have curtailed field trials of GM Brinjal (aubergine).