An analyst says, food is a weapon and if Western multinationals control the food in Africa with GMO, they control the life, control politics.
In the background of this, GMO (genetically modified organisms), a farming technology that promises hardier crops to cope with Africa’s harsh weather conditions is being relentlessly lobbied to African governments by Western multinationals and international institutions as a pill to solve hunger problems in Africa. Kenya recently announced it is placing a ban on all GMO production and this line of thought is supported by arguments that it won’t solve the main problem in Kenya, which concerns food distribution infrastructure.
Press TV in its Africa Today
program has interviewed Joe Mzinga from the Eastern and South Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum, Tanzania about this issue. He is joined by Grace Mwaura, environmentalist in London and Dr. Eyman Osman a research consultant and genetic specialist, in London.
The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
You are there on the ground in Tanzania. How significant do you think the Kenyan move is in banning these GM organisms?
I think the Kenyan government move is significant and very welcomes in Eastern and Southern Africa because we think that African problems should have African solutions and not impose GM technology or technology that is not suitable to African environments.
Can you explain why it is not suitable to African environments given that the proponents of GM technology say it’s ideal because when you modify the strains of crops - it could be maize, a whole range of crops that people eat, you might find they are able to withstand the harsh climate you sometimes finding parts of Africa that often ruins crops?
I think cheap is always expensive and that is a short cut to a very wide and broad problem of agriculture in Africa. Agriculture in Africa is not only about technology.
And this technology is very expensive and it is very monopolistic in its nature. This means farmers have to go for seeds every year and for herbicides every year and this in the long term is going to intoxicate the soil and do a lot of harm, which is irreparable in the long run.
So we think the Kenya move should be hailed by the many governments in Africa and we have called for the African Union to ban holistically the importation and experimentation of GMO foods in Africa.
Your government, your farming minister in Tanzania says it isn’t yet ready for GMO so I presume they’re taking the Kenyan line on this, but there are a number of international activists and environmental campaigners, people like Mark Lynas who is well-known here in this country and he used to be really keen on banning GM technology.
He now says the case for continued opposition to new generations of GM has not been made. And he says these crops provide lifesaving vitamins for starving people; you cannot call yourself a humanitarian and be opposed to GM crops today.
So when you wrote your briefing paper “GMOs beyond fact and fiction” in 2005, that was about the GM technology available then. Mark Lynas and others say things have changed. Shouldn’t you move on as well?
Not really. If we look at this technology, the previous speaker says this technology has been there since the 19th century, I think this is quite new technology and it’s not fully tested and there is a lot of conspiracy so people change positions. No matter how they change though, the facts remain the same.
This is a food that is scientifically engineered, totally. If we say this kind of technology is very, very important... you know, in Africa there is starving in Africa there is hunger not because of technology it is because of bad policy.
Those who are pushing for GMO, this is for their benefit. We have seen a lot of scientists in fact pushing for this, trying to lobby the government and so on, but the facts remain the same. This is a Trojan horse to introduce GMO into Africa..
Why are you so concerned? Why do you think it’s a Trojan horse? Do you think it’s going to be a tool for what, global capitalism? What exactly are you worried about?
What I’m saying is food is a weapon. And this is a very good weapon and a very important weapon.
We have seen this during the second world war - when we sided with the Americans we were cut off by the Germans and the Europeans were struggling to get the supply to the countries in Europe.
So this is the same - the one who controls the food, controls the life, controls politics.
And these multinational companies, they are pushing for that - and this is the last frontier - in the name of humanitarian. But in the real sense it won’t benefit small scale farmers in Africa.
If we see success in South Africa, we find that South Africa is largely a commercial farming country, it is not a small scale farming country.
And this technology, if you find you bring in GM crops in Africa it means that farmers will be dependent to the multinational companies.