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Kofi Annan: African opposition to GMO is a farce

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Staff writer ▼ | September 10, 2013
Concern in Africa over genetically modified crops has been dismissed as fear of the unknown by an environmental group chaired by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general.
Kofi Annan
Kofi AnnanConcern in Africa over genetically modified crops has been dismissed as fear of the unknown by an environmental group chaired by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general.


A report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) describes opposition to GM crops as "a farce". It points out that such crops have been subjected to more testing worldwide than new non-modified varieties, citing reports from the EU, the World Health Organization and the US national academy of sciences.

Only four African countries - Burkina Faso, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa - have fully commercialised GM crops. But Agra says most countries across the continent are at various stages of creating the environment for commercialisation.

Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda are conducting field trials of biotech crops, the final step before full approval of commercialisation. Most African countries have put in place the requisite policy and regulatory frameworks, despite public jitters over genetically modified food.

Agra's Africa Agricultural status report states: "There is growing public opposition to GM crops in Africa that is best described as a fear of the unknown. Unless milled, the import of GM foods is banned in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. More important to seed-sector development, these bans signal the arbitrariness and unpredictability of public policy."

Agra is an organisation based in Kenya that aims to double the income of 20 million small farmers and reduce food insecurity by 50% in 20 countries by 2020. Critics of the group accuse it of showing its true colours after initial coyness over GM foods.

"This report clearly indicates their full support for GM crops, and their intention to use their influence to open African doors for Monsanto's and Syngenta's patented GM crops," said Teresa Anderson, international advocacy co-ordinator for the Gaia foundation, an advocate of food sovereignty that asserts the right of people to define their own food systems.

"Characterising the refusal of most African countries to commercialise GM crops... as 'fear of the unknown' is patronising and shallow. Agra has wilfully chosen to insult farmers' concerns in their aim to expand corporate agribusiness into Africa."


 

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