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Monday, 09 September 2013

Agra: African opposition to GM crops is a farce

Concern in Africa over genetically modified (GM) crops has been dismissed as “fear of the unknown”  in a report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), which was published on 4 September.
The report – entitled Agra's Africa Agricultural status report states - argues that GM 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 – and describes opposition to GM crops as "a farce".
The research 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."
Only four African countries – Burkina Faso, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa – have fully commercialised GM crops. 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 is an independent 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. The group is chaired by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general.

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 a representatives of the Gaia foundation - an advocate of food sovereignty that asserts the right of people to define their own food systems – for EurActiv.

The report coincides with a meeting in Maputo (Mozambique), of the African green revolution forum, organised by Agra. The focus of the talks – which bring together heads of state, ministers, NGOs and scientists – is "scaling up and financing inclusive agribusiness through transformative public private partnerships".

Source: EurActiv