Home » Industry » GMOs – Capitalism Gone Really Bad [opinion]

THE mounting pressure from some scientists that want to coerce Zimbabwe into adopting genetically modified crops or foods (GMOs) is unnecessary, largely inspired by selfish private capital and it will do little or nothing to address the pressing issues of food security, nutrition, health and environmental damage. The debate around GMOs – seeds produced in laboratories through genetic alterations, has caused serious division of opinion pitting Government on the one side and some private-sector backed scientists on the other, but has seldom elicited views from the consumer or the smallholder farmer.

Surprisingly, the National Biotechnology Authority (NBA) has been firing from the private capital’s corner, pushing Government to lift its ban on genetically modified organisms, particularly BT cotton – an insecticide producing seed variety manufactured by giant global seed firm, Monsanto.

For that push, the authority got a rapping from leading Indian scientist and environmentalist, Dr Vandana Shiva who visited Zimbabwe last month.

Dr Shiva told a press briefing on June 6 that the NBA was “acting outside of its mandate as a regulatory authority and should not be seen to be defending GMOs but should be ensuring that they protect the health and environment of Zimbabweans.”

Among many things, the debate centres on the nutritional components of GMOs versus organic foods or those foods produced through natural means.

It examines the possibility of a food-short Zimbabwe adopting GMOs as a long-term solution to tackling food shortages and eliminating hunger.

Some gleeful scientists contend that the diet of most Zimbabweans already constitutes a significant portion of GMOs, from chickens to cereal to potatoes, rendering the ban ineffective.

This is supported by Zimbabwe’s unwilling reliance on imports to meet expanding food needs in its domestic economy, struggling to produce enough for own consumption since the early 2000s due to disruptions in agriculture.

The bulk of Zimbabwe’s food imports are from proven GMOs enthusiasts like South Africa and Brazil. There could be some truth in the scientists’ assertions, however.

GMO seeds “are favoured because of their ability to yield larger harvests and avoid certain pests or weeds that usually eat up some of their productivity.”

Damaging consequences

But what role could GM crops play in boosting food production, health and nutrition, if any, at a time of changing climates, which have multiplied the risk of poor harvests, malnutrition and hunger?

Can GMOs replace the value of traditional foods and diets, and other agro-ecological practices that protect natural resources such as soil fertility and water?

Dr Shiva disputed claims GMOs would improve agricultural output in Africa nor would they create long-lasting solutions for eliminating hunger and poverty.

She said the only way to fight poverty in Africa was to empower smallholder farmers by protecting their rights to use indigenous seeds and resist the corporate industrialisation of African agriculture.

Data from UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation show that organic agriculture can increase food production by between 200-300 percent in Africa.

Dr Shiva scoffed at suggestions GMO production through industrial agriculture will help boost yields. Smallholder farmers are currently responsible for 70 percent of the world’s food output, done through traditional methods.

The remaining 30 percent comes from industrial agriculture, which depletes natural resources such as soil fertility or causes siltation and produces significant amounts of climate change-causing gases.

“The bio-safety laws in Zimbabwe need to be addressed as currently they are designed to promote GMOs,” said the Indian scientist.

“If Zimbabwe allows GMOs in we do not have the capacity or infrastructure to monitor the impacts on the environment or on peoples’ health.”

The re-publication of Professor Gilles Eric Seralini’s chronic toxicity study on the glyphosate-based herbicide, Round-up, and the genetically modified maize late last month has drawn further attention to the “damaging consequences” of GMOs.

The majority of genetically modified crops are engineered to carry Round-up, the most commonly used herbicide worldwide.

However, the French scientist’s study, the world’s first long-term research on the lifetime effects of Round-up, found that the herbicide posed serious health impacts.

It said the herbicide “causes severe liver and kidney damage and sex-dependent hormonal effects, such as mammary tumours from very low environmental levels.”

The study said Round-up should be “considered as an endocrine disrupting chemical”- one that negatively alters the body’s hormonal production system”and present safety-regulations controlling its use should be urgently reviewed.”

Most of the damage occasioned on human health as a result of exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides such as Round-up did not become evident until adulthood, the Seralini research established.

Now experts want immediate implementation of precautionary measures to prevent the on-going use of GMO-based herbicides “until further long-term studies can be conducted into their accumulative impacts on public and environmental health.”

Professor Seralini’s study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012, but was retracted in November 2013 following heavy criticism in scientific circles. However, the Environmental Sciences Europe republished it on June 24.

Capitalist push

The GMO is now a multi-billion dollar global industry sustained by huge seed making companies such as America’s Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Chemical and DuPont.

These firms are the biggest manufacturers of GMOs, herbicides and pesticides and “have vested interest in their success.”

At Monsanto, GMO related products account for between 60 to 90 percent of revenue.

Genetically modified linked products make up 52 percent of Syngenta’s revenue 23 percent for DuPont and up to to 12 percent at Dow Chemical.

In Hawaai, these firms are pumping millions of dollars into GMOs aocacy despite resistance by local farmers and reported cases of cancers linked to consumption of the unnatural food products. It is unlikely the corporates’ push for GMOs is driven by a desire to boost food security nor improve human and environmental welfare.

Profit is the inspiration. One of the GMOs enthusiasts – Vilmorin amp Cie, recently entered the Zimbabwean market. The French seed-maker will by the end of this year own 25 percent of Seed-Co, the country’s biggest seed producer and a giant on the African continent where it owns facilities in 15 countries.

Vilmorin amp Cie, owned by Groupe Limagrin, the biggest plant breeding and seed producer in the European Union, said in its results statement for 2013 that the Seed-Co acquisition was part of the company’s strategic “implantation” plan on the African market.

Seed-Co produces maize hybrids, mainly, and this is what appears to have interested the French firm.

“Through this operation, which will initially lead to the development of operational partnerships, mainly in research, Vilmorin amp Cie is strengthening the worldwide scope of its corn seed business,” it said.

But the drive by foreign multi-national companies into Africa’s agriculture sector raises more questions than answers, particularly when the underlying aim is turn the continent’s farming practices into a GMOs funfair for the West’s unquenchable profit desires.

After some time, Vilmorin amp Cie’s true purpose for buying into Seed-Co will begin to show whether this was a biotechnology alliance to breed harmful GMO seed for the Zimbabwean and African markets.

Others are showing open support. The industrialised nations in the Group of 8 as well as agencies like the Gates Foundation are keen on “GMOnising” Africa’s agriculture through a shadowy project called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. A similar project for Asia failed badly. In Kenya, farmers were in June warned by the EU head in that country that GMO produce will not sell in the 27-member Union.

“We have made this crystal clear to South Africans and I am telling the same to Kenyan farmers that it will be almost impossible to export GMOs to Europe,” Lodewjik Briet told Kenya’s Citizen TV last month.

The warning came as Americans are piling pressure on the Kenyan government to lift a ban on genetically modified foods. GMOs are unsafe for human consumption and will damage the environment.

China, which has 300 million more mouths to feed than Africa’s has banned GMO imports. Russia too.

There is no reason why Africa should settle for unnatural products. Clearly, GMOs is capitalism gone really bad.

God is faithful.

Source : The Herald