A coalition of civil society groups have called on Africans to reject recent statements that emanated from the first Pan African Biotechnology Stewardship Conference held in Accra, which called on Africans to use biotechnology to provide “poor farmers with healthier, more bountiful crops to reduce hunger and poverty in Africa”.
The conference which was tagged “Africa In Search Of Safe and High Quality Biotech Crops” and was attended by experts in Biotechnology from around the world, unanimously endorsed the use of Genetically Modified crops.
Adewale Adekunle, the Director of Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) Unit, which deals with partnership, in his closing remarks at the conference stated that, to meet the food security needs, African countries need to rely on biotechnology and stewardship
“We are disappointed that an unproven and unsafe technology is being foisted on Africa simply because of the unfortunate continual characterization of Africa as a chronically hungry continent,” read the statement signed by Accurate Vision, Nigeria; African Biosafety Network; African Centre for Biosafety; and more than 80 other groups.
“It is important to understand that, the agricultural fortunes of the continent have been adversely impacted mainly by externally generated neoliberal policies. Our agricultural systems are threatened by industries that seek to control our food and our livelihoods by
destroying our agricultural systems.
“The move towards intensified, chemical based agriculture is set to undermine the predominant family based agro-ecological food production on the continent. The promotion and introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with intellectual property rights over seeds represents a serious threat to African farmers’ rights to reproduce, save and share seeds.
“It also threatens to erode seed diversity represents new forms of stealing, as all industrial seeds are taken from seeds cultivated, developed and preserved through thousands of years of selection and breeding by our people,” the statement added.
The groups expressed “total disgust” at the manner by which the burden for solutions to every crisis faced by the North “is shifted unto Africa.”
“For example, with the climate change and energy crises the burden has been inequitably placed on the continent through land grabs for agro fuels production as well as the unfair sentencing of Africa to adapt to climate impacts that she did not create.
“While the world is advancing towards stricter control of GMOs, it is a different situation in Africa where our leaders are covertly or ignorantly colluding with multinational agribusinesses to colonize our food systems as well as give out our arable lands through dubious land grabbing agreements,” they stated.
While citing examples of some countries that have been taking steps to secure their agriculture from “pollution” through modern biotechnology; the groups noted that there are no success stories to tell about GMOs “other than tales of woes.”
Benin Republic has maintained a moratorium on GMOs over the past 10 years; Peru approved the law banning GM production for 10 years; the Mexican States of Tlaxcala and Michoacán each passed legislation banning the planting of genetically modified corn to protect natural plants from further contamination of transgenes; and China said GMO is not a priority, stemming from public debate and outcry over the safety of GMO food, amongst other examples.
“Africans must not be used as guinea pigs for unverified technologies and the continent must no longer be used as a dumping ground for the products of the biotech companies,” they said.