Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


(34,658 posts)
Sat Jan 25, 2014, 04:07 PM Jan 2014

Can genetically modified crops end hunger in Africa?

The African Union declared 2014 the Year of Food Security. The plan is to eradicate hunger on the continent by 2025. But controversy is brewing over whether genetically modified crops can help countries reach that goal. The UN estimates that 223 million people in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from malnutrition. Long periods of drought have resulted in poor corn and millet harvests. For years, African politicians have called for the introduction of genetically modified (GM) plants as a means to halt the decline in yields. At an African Agriculture Conference in 2012, 24 African countries agreed to allow the use of genetically modified crops. But so far, commercial use of genetically engineered seeds is permitted only in South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Burkina Faso. Calestous Juma can't understand the other nations' reluctance. Governments should be more open to GM crops, the professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University said. "There may be some areas where you need GM seeds and there may be areas where GM seeds are not necessary," Juma said. "That choice should be left to the farmer."


Genetically modified plants are no solution in the fight against hunger, argued Million Belay, coordinator of the pan-African platform Alliance for Food Sovereignty (AFSA). "They never were," he added. AFSA promotes biodiversity and ecological land management in Africa and fights against the use of GM seeds. "Every time a crisis comes, the international community thinks that's the solution," Belay said. But the problem is not the seeds, it's the soil, he said, adding that if you enrich the soil in a natural way then productivity will follow. "It's like focusing on the mother, not only on the child: If you feed the mother, the child will be healthy," he said.

The Council of Ministers of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in September 2013 approved controversial new seed trade regulations. According to the rules, only standardized, certified seeds may be sold among the 19 member states. The seeds are patented and must guarantee consistent results over a long period of time - ruling out further use of traditional seeds. Small farmers could no longer jointly collect seeds and sell the unpatented variety. The agreement would also pave the way for major agricultural companies that have GM seeds on offer. The COMESA members are free to decide, however, whether they want to introduce GM seeds. The ruling hasn't yet gone into force, but when it does, many small farmers are bound to be affected. "Ownership would be transferred to companies, and that would actually meant the life of the people would be controlled by few interest groups and big companies - like Monsanto," Belay warned.

Worldwide, three companies are responsible for more than 50 percent of the sale of seeds: Monsanto, Syngenta from Switzerland and DuPont, another US giant. Monsanto is one of the most influential enterprises on the African agricultural market. At the AU summit last year, citizens groups demanded banning genetically modified seeds throughout the bloc. This year - the Year of Food Security- Agriculture and Food Security are the focus at the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. It remains to be seen what role GM plants will play in the AU goal to conquer hunger in Africa by 2025.


5 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies
Can genetically modified crops end hunger in Africa? (Original Post) undeterred Jan 2014 OP
k&r. nt Mojorabbit Jan 2014 #1
Can they? Quick answer, no. hunter Jan 2014 #2
Exactly. arcane1 Jan 2014 #4
That is my one and only concern about GM crops: arcane1 Jan 2014 #3
No. polly7 Jan 2014 #5


(38,492 posts)
2. Can they? Quick answer, no.
Sat Jan 25, 2014, 04:20 PM
Jan 2014

Capitalist world wants to turn Africa into it's "bread basket" with the native people as farm workers.

Sort of like California.



(38,613 posts)
3. That is my one and only concern about GM crops:
Sat Jan 25, 2014, 04:23 PM
Jan 2014

"Ownership would be transferred to companies, and that would actually meant the life of the people would be controlled by few interest groups and big companies - like Monsanto".

Forcing people into contracts, forbidding them from saving seeds for next year, eventually designing crops whose seeds are sterile, etc.

It's sick.


(20,582 posts)
5. No.
Sat Jan 25, 2014, 04:52 PM
Jan 2014

When large corporations move in, individual farmers in poorer nations whose gov'ts will not protect them against these giants, are many times devastated.

Here is a comment I read a little while ago on an article re KFC in Africa, and though it addresses factory farming, it applies equally to seed farming.

Zooty2Shoes AmandaSowards • 2 days ago ?
Amanda, I think the problem is far deeper than you have made out.

"Smallholdings in most African countries are essential for a number of reasons: They feed the family, firstly; Excess production is sold to vendors in towns; Rotation of local crops utilizes the local geography, climate and ingrained local knowledge to be able to produce multiple crops year on year, without destroying the soils; The cycle of growing is built on utilization of all resources - from human and animal waste composted to fertilizer, straw, vines, etc. used for roofing, utensils, artifacts, chickens working as little tractors and natural pesticides in among the crops, etc. Those cycles of village agriculture just work.

There are many interlinked processes that have evolved over hundreds of generations and introducing an imbalance into that system that could end up with introducing poverty and hunger where it currently is in balance.

Africa is, in biomass, completely able to feed itself, but over the last 30 years Western corporations have turned small holdings into large farms for export, pushing up the price of food to the extent that locals can't afford to eat - which is what is the biggest driver of poverty and malnutrition. Kenya has effectively become Europe's greenhouse, providing expensive air-transported fruits and vegetables into European winter - but the result of that is a huge price-hike in local markets over the last 30 years.

If small farmers change from their staple crops to a US-style monoculture, they may get wealthy, but there will be no 'give' in the system. All it will take is for one enterprising government official to decide (on the back of a large payment, no doubt) to implement a massive state-subsidized soy or chicken farm to leave these smallholders with no market and no easily usable food. To have to return to their original method of farming after implementing a monoculture isn't easy and in a hand-to-mouth agriculture could end up with an entire season of starvation.

There are a lot of good things we in the West can do to improve on African farming methods - introducing factory farming and monoculture in the name of 'efficiency' are not something we should contemplate. Look at our own awful factory farming methods and the shocking state of food security in the US - antibiotic-laden chicken and beef (to the extent that most of the developed world won't buy our produce!), GMO crops with a designed lifecycle to ensure you are tithed to Monsanto, corn syrup in everything - these are not practices we want to be exporting to a continent trying to bring itself up to a modern, Western technological level.

Improving the storage of food, improving irrigation and cultivation, improving pest control and ultimately, yield - those are the kinds of thing we should be doing, but as is usual, the majority of 'improvement' programs are driven by corporations who have something other than altruism at their focus."


Corporate Carve-Up
June 10, 2013

Under the pretext of preventing hunger, the rich nations are engineering a new scramble for Africa.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th June 2013


That African farming needs investment and support is indisputable. But does it need land grabbing? Yes, according to the deals these countries have signed. Mozambique, where local farmers have already been evicted from large tracts of land, is now obliged to write new laws promoting what its agreement calls “partnerships” of this kind(6). Cote d’Ivoire must “facilitate access to land for smallholder farmers and private enterprises”(7). Which, in practice, means evicting smallholder farmers for the benefit of private enterprises. Already French, Algerian, Swiss and Singaporean companies have lined up deals across 600,000 hectares or more of this country’s prime arable land. These deals, according to the development group GRAIN, “will displace tens of thousands of peasant rice farmers and destroy the livelihoods of thousands of small traders.”(8) Ethiopia, where land grabbing has been accompanied by appalling human rights abuses, must assist “agriculture investors (domestic and foreign; small, medium and larger enterprises) to … secure access to land”(9).

And how about seed grabbing? Yes, that too is essential to the well-being of Africa’s people. Mozambique is now obliged to “systematically cease distribution of free and unimproved seeds”, while drawing up new laws granting intellectual property rights in seeds which will “promote private sector investment”(10). Similar regulations must also be approved in Ghana, Tanzania and Cote d’Ivoire.

The countries which have joined the New Alliance will have to remove any market barriers which favour their own farmers. Where farmers comprise between 50 and 90% of the population(11), and where their livelihoods are dependent on the non-cash economy, these policies – which make perfect sense in the air-conditioned lecture rooms of the Chicago Business School – can be lethal.

Strangely missing from the New Alliance agreements is any commitment on the part of the G8 nations to change their own domestic policies. These could have included farm subsidies in Europe and the US, which undermine the markets for African produce, or biofuel quotas, which promote world hunger by turning food into fuel. Any constraints on the behaviour of corporate investors in Africa (such as the Committee on World Food Security’s guidelines on land tenure(12)) remain voluntary, while the constraints on their host nations become compulsory. As in 1884, the powerful nations make the rules and the weak ones abide by them. For their own good, of course.


DESVARIEUX: Well, let's talk about some of the policies that they've already enacted. At last year's G8 summit, there was the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Can you just discuss a little bit about this policy? How much money are we talking about? What's at stake here? And how is this part of this whole problem with the same sort of initiatives being repeated in Africa's colonial past we're seeing here in modern-day society?WOODS: Well, I think a lot of concerns are being raised in Africa around this question of food sovereignty to ensure that people in communities throughout the continent--70 percent of the continent is reliant on agriculture and lives in the rural areas--and to ensure that people are actually benefiting from the resources on their land. So it sounds great when we think about this new alliance for food. You know, increasing yields, increasing productivity all sound fantastic. But if you look beyond the mask, beyond the title, what you recognize is that, you know, throughout the continent there has been this push now for the appropriation of Africa's land. Africa continues to enjoy much of the last remaining arable land on this planet. And so what you have is what many are calling a land grab that's underway, where U.S. and other foreign investors--it's not just U.S.; it's China, it's Saudi Arabia, it's a number of countries now that are investing in land in Africa.And two of the issues. First, you know, often it's communities that have been longtime residents of this land, you know, being now tossed off their ancestral lands, being forced out of farmlands and out of the rural areas altogether. I think the second concern is around biofuel production and the appropriation of land for really growing biofuels to feed cars, you know, as opposed to growing food to feed people.And, of course, the third concern is around genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and efforts by particularly U.S. agribusiness companies to expand their production of genetically modified foods. I think the concerns are often that small- and medium-size farmers, their practices to actually feed their families, their communities, their region will be pushed aside as large agribusiness firms, particularly U.S. and European companies, swoop in in efforts to appropriate land for large-scale agricultural production that can feed the interest of U.S. particularly biofuel industries and others outside of Africa

Why Seven African Nations Joined Anti-Monsanto Protests Last Weekend


Latest Discussions»Editorials & Other Articles»Can genetically modified ...