US agencies, funders such as the Gates Foundation, and agribusiness giant Monsanto are trying to force unwilling African nations to accept expensive and insufficiently tested Genetically Modified (GM) foods and crops, according to a new report released today. 
“The US, the world’s top producer of GM crops, is seeking new markets for American GM crops in Africa. The US administration’s strategy consists of assisting African nations to produce biosafety laws that promote agribusiness interests instead of protecting Africans from the potential threats of GM crops,” said Haidee Swanby from the African Centre for Biosafety, which authored the report commissioned by Friends of the Earth International.
The new report also exposes how agribusiness giant Monsanto influences biosafety legislation in African countries, gains regulatory approval for its product, and clears the path for products such as GM maize (corn).
Only four African countries -South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Sudan- have released GM crops commercially but the issue of genetically modified maize is deeply controversial, given that maize is the staple food of millions of Africans.
Unlike Europe and other regions where strong biosafety laws have been in place for years, most African countries still lack such laws. Only seven African countries currently have functional biosafety frameworks in place.
“African governments must protect their citizens and our rights must be respected. We deserve the same level of biosafety protection that European citizens enjoy,” said Mariann Bassey Orovwuje from Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
Globally, markets for GM crops have been severely curbed by biosafety laws and regulations in the past decade, and GM foods and crops have been rejected outright by consumers in many countries, especially in Europe.
“South African farmers have more than 16 years’ experience cultivating GM maize, soya and cotton, but the promise that GM crops would address food security has not been fulfilled. Indeed, South Africa’s food security is reportedly declining with almost half the nation currently categorised as food insecure even though South Africa exports maize,” said Haidee Swanby from the African Centre for Biosafety.
“The South African experience confirms that GM crops can only bring financial benefits for a small number of well-resourced farmers. The vast majority of African farmers are small farmers who cannot afford to adopt expensive crops which need polluting inputs such as synthetic fertilisers and chemicals to perform effectively,” she added.