Home » Industry » GMOs Will Not Make Zim Food Secure [opinion]

I got a response to my last article that exposed the multiple dangers of genetically modified (GMO) foods or crops from Edmund Makowa who said the best way for the country to achieve food security was to follow a holistic approach and every little bit of everything, including GMOs.However Makowa who called himself a “GMO proponent” professed ignorance of the long-term harmful impacts of genetically modified foods on human and environmental health. (Read last week’s piece for further information on this.)

We are seeing numerous scientists and private firms in Africa and in Zimbabwe whose thinking mirrors Makowa’s, seeking to pressurise governments to rewrite their seed and agrochemicals laws to accommodate GMOs on the myth of boosting food security.

Food security, however, will not be achieved by turning over Africa’s natural farming methods to industrial agriculture, operated by large foreign multinational companies that are GMO happy.

In recent years, over 50 million hectares of land has been “grabbed” by large-scale foreign corporates across Africa.

This is with “tacit support from some elites,” the Alliance for Food Security in Africa (AFSA), a coalition of farmers and civic organisations, said on July 19 after commemorations of the International Year of Family Farming in Togo.

The grabbing has neither eliminated hunger nor minimised poverty on the continent, except they have “resulted in the massive displacement of small farmers, food insecurity, conflict, water loss and environmental damage.”

New research shows that farming based on GMO seed has not improved food security in the countries they have been adopted. In the US, a g proponent of genetically modified organisms, food insecurity has risen from 12 percent in pre-GMO 1995 to 15 percent in 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported recently.

In Paraguay, where nearly 65 percent of land is under GM crops, hunger increased from 12,6 percent in 2004-06 to 25,5 percent in 2010-12, stated the paper, citing a study by America’s Union of Concerned Scientists.

Brazil and Argentina have not managed to reduce hunger despite many years of GM food production. What is drawing foreign corporates to African agriculture is the desire to push their patented GM seed, growing market for biofuels crops like maize and private profit, not public good.

The African urban food market is expected to be worth around US$400 billion by 2030. This is where the actual scramble for African agriculture really lies.

Profit driven entities like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, the American seed and chemical giants producing the bulk of all GM products in use across the world today, are undoubtedly in the race to establish footholds.

The power and wealth of these companies is immeasurable. They have already thought of strategies to counteract opposing views. Whether it be through unorthodox measures, free trips and travels staying at luxury hotels all expenses paid as enticing support among other avenues.

Much like what the pharmaceutical companies do with doctors to prescribe their drugs. It is clear some local scientists, politicians and private companies will be hoodwinked into joining the deceptive GM lobby.

Traditional, organic farming methods need protection. Zimbabwe’s Government has already made that clear-GMOs have no place in the country’s agriculture landscape.

Agriculture schemes led by the industrialised nations of the West should be viewed with caution, warned the Alliance for Food Security in Africa.

The initiatives include the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the US government’s Feed the Future (FtF) Initiative, the Grow Africa Partnership, and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa(AGRA).

“The onslaught of the industrial and chemical food system and all that goes with it is immense and seems to be ger than ever,” said Mr John Wilson, an agriculture expert from Harare.

Organic farming

The problems to food production in Zimbabwe will not be resolved by resorting to GMOs, as deceptively aocated by some biotechnology firms keen to reorganise and industrialise Africa’s agriculture

Until only 15 years ago, the country produced enough to feed self and some in the SADC region. SADC was unashamedly confident about Zimbabwe’s agricultural prowess it tasked the country a role that ensures the entire region was food secure. What will it take to return to those glory days of organic farming excellence?

This is the debate that should begin to occupy Zimbabwe’s agricultural space, not GMOs. How can smallholder farmers be assisted to boost yields and secure stable markets at a time of climate change?

Latest scientific evidence from the UN’s panel on climate change shows that, across Africa, agriculture production will come under severe pressure from warming temperatures a few decades from now.

In Zimbabwe, harvests may decline by as much as 30 percent in less than 20 years while the frequency of droughts, mid-season and inter-season dry spells are seen intensifying. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges African countries to adopt sustainable agriculture strategies that minimise crop losses and environmental damage, such as turning to drought-tolerant small grains.

Genetically modified crops were never cited as healthy long-term alternatives to hunger and poverty elimination.

The bulk of communal and small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe, where over 60 percent of the people rely on incomes from agriculture, are vulnerable to climate change and disruptions in weather conditions. These farmers may best be served by climate smart agriculture practices that, barring severe rainfall shortages, will almost always guarantee increased harvests at lower financial and environmental costs.

Other countries are already doing it, with measurable success. In Zambia, the Grassroots Trust, a not-for-profit organisation, is helping farmers achieve 6 tonnes of maize per hectare using ‘regenerative technologies.’

The Zambian farmers spend only a seventh of their harvest per hectare on seed and labour costs, yielding an annual profit of US$1,500ha, on the average.

That compares with that country’s national average maize yield of 1,6t per hectare, costing government more in subsidies. Regenerative agriculture refers to techniques in farming that improves soil-ecosystems. The Zambian experience has seen “fertility improving year-by-year as carbon is returned to the soil by a healthy bio-diversity,”

Grassroots Trust executive, Rolf Shenton told on an online food and agriculture group, Food Matters Zimbabwe, on June 20.

“Increased soil-carbon and organic ground cover also encourages water infiltration and retention, meaning soils can withstand droughts for up to four times better than ‘conventional’ soils de-carboned by overuse of nitrogen, tillage and agro-chemicals.”

Families or small-scale farmers are the biggest producers of food in Africa. Zimbabwe’s land reforms have in the past one and half decades redistributed farmland to over 250,000 families.

These farmers risk losing their lands and livelihoods if agriculture was corporatised, being handed over to GMO-oriented industrialists.

God is faithful.

Source : The Herald