|PROTEST AGAINST AMERICAN IMPOSITION OF TERMINATOR SEEDS
From: D. Fasset
To: Mr. Kodjo P. Abassa
UNECA Sustainable Development Division
RE: Concerns Over GMO
My dear colleague,
Thank you for your expeditious inquiry. Your response in this matter indicates that you may share our concern for food security and further research into agricultural genetic engineering before it is blindly accepted throughout the African Union.
Denham Ikemefuna Fasset
First, I should like to address some of your more general concerns relating to the protest against the use of GMOs. The Biotech Revolution is a young and potentially dangerous phase of agro-technology. Therefore, until further research proves that these potential dangers are invalid we must remain vigilant. As this briefing will highlight, the international community is completely split over the use of GMOs, and we must look at the technology in great detail before openly accepting its widespread use.
Without any argument, there is great concern for the poverty and hunger of our people. This problem must and will be overcome with the least damage as possible. However, we should not rush headlong with foolhardy ambitions. If one closely examines the technology, i.e. what is being modified on the genetic level, then that would cause one to conduct a meticulous investigation into its possible dangers. Most whom have ascribed to GMO have done so under the persuasion and coercion of powerful multi-nationalist corporations. I shall discuss this further later.
Let us look at the Terminator technology in detail. Terminator technologies, sometimes called Technology Protection System (TPS) or GURTs (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), are perhaps the most evil of technologies ever created by scientists. The technology comes from a source of greed and control, in essence, profits over people. May I question: How can one decisively place into extinction a 12,000-year old tradition, God’s given right, to propagate seed and perpetuate a livelihood through agricultural development?
The terminator technology does just that. The seeds processed under this technology produce large, drought-resistance, and almost plastic-like crops. However, there are major concerns that must be scrutinized here. One, these seeds, liken also to “traitor seeds”, produce only one or maybe two cropharvests; subsequently, because the genetics of the seeds have been preprogrammed to “time-out” after a certain period, then those crops will cease to produce viable seed.
Two, true the farmer may have big and pretty crops that resisted the weevil or other known pests, but after the time is up on his viable seed, he must then go back to the corporation to purchase more seed. This is what I term as agro-slavery, a direct threat to food security.
Three, the corporations that sold that farmer the new seed has intellectual property rights on that entire crop. Of course they have been currently expressing that they will not seize royalties from these crops, but where “lies” the trust, especially given the centuries of treatment from over-developed nations?
Four, the campaign to introduce GMOs throughout the African Union has been based on the food issues we have. In other words, these problems are being used as a target to market these products. Africa is a source of great wealth in terms of its massive human and natural resources. Exploitation will be rampant in the 21st Century and the long-term projection on our farmers and food security is indeed depressing.
Now, to your other question regarding the terminator gene in which you asked why should not we bio-engineer our own? Africans should always be invested in self-development and self-determination. However, for what reason does one need a seed that “times out” or develops chemical dependency as with the traitor seed? It is a simple question that deals with ethics. We do not need this kind of seed. What we need is better infrastructural development, better transportation, improved governance, and a camaraderie and cooperation that must stretch beyond our colonial borders. These are the solutions to our food security issues.
The Green Revolution was not missed by Africa. In fact, we are the vanguard of its principles. We must learn from the mistakes made by the over-developed nations and alter our approach to development. Industrialization is only efficient if it accepts sustainability and ecology into its equation. The level of pollution and chemical waste produced by the West is despicable. Therefore, we should take a fundamental look at how others accomplish their goals and their outcomes, and subsequently make an assessment of our own means and methods. For this reason, among others, we are fortunate to have within our Union a majority of “developing” nations.
May I also remind you that even within these developed nations, there are many who are diametrically opposed to GMO. You do not hear their voices because of the loudness of the multi-nationalist corporations and their poster board associates. Where are the voices of the International Scientist Communities? Who is the ECA listening to? May you be reminded that the USDA is subservient, or integrated if you prefer, with big chemical corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, AstraZeneca, and the like. This same USDA, which I am guessing you respect, introduced GMO into its national population without any given notice. Perhaps you are not aware of new allergens recently unveiled in food products or of the growing opposition to GMO, after the detrimental act. Shall we recklessly accept GMO given these global circumstances or intelligently wait, conduct our own research and make an assessment thereof?
Recently, China rescinded its commitment to the use of GMO because of the failing and controversy over GMO crops. 32 companies holding over 53 brand names have made a commitment reject GM ingredients and/or products. The population in Chine is increasingly becoming aware of GM and is firmly against it. Europeans are also opposed to GMO, but are now looking at other options for the technology outside of food production.
In reference to the report by the General Assembly, it is quite unfortunate that the report made several citations of “revenues” and “business” instead of specific details on the potential dangers of genetically engineered food stuffs. Although mention was given to the flow of genetic material to closely related crops and the patenting of the crops, the report did not effectively elaborate to form a sound basis for this argument. Indeed, there are many concerns that should be openly dealt with. Furthermore, the tone of the report is one-sided in favor of the indiscriminate use of biotechnology, shameful under the so-called principles of the United Nations.
In summation, I’d like to target the ethical side of this argument. How is one to eat from the hand that beat? In other words, we Africans have been lied to, cheated, oppressed, stolen, massacred, and so on. Still today, we are not completely united and efficiently functional, mind, body, or spirit.
The consequences of colonialism have had pervading and long-term negative effects. Those who oppressed us have given us many gifts that in the long run turned out to be poison. The very same government that wants to “give” us GMO closes its eyes on the dumping of toxic waste on our shores, competes to monopolize our natural resources, forces us to agree to unscrupulous loan arrangements, and coerces to topple our governments under the guise of democracy. From these very governments, corporations, and institutions we now accept this new technology that is marketed as the panacea to our hunger and poverty. An astute evaluation of these associations should at the very least allow one to question the merits of further offerings. GMO is not a part of a sustainable society; it is, in fact, a contradiction.
I welcome your further thoughts on this issue and pray for your good judgment. I offer you an article by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho on Africans Unite Against GMO. You may find addition reference materials at the following websites:
AUF Deputy Secretary-General
See below for article by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho....
AFRICA UNITES AGAINST GM to OPT for SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Zambia has ignited a fuse for African solidarity that could launch the continent on the road to sustainability and self-sufficiency. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho reports on the real happenings in Johannesburg.
Zambia’s chief government scientist, Mwananyanda Mbikusita Lewanika, known to his friends in the biosafety protocol negotiations as Lewanika, has become a folk-hero to fellow Africans. This happened after he presented the Zambian government’s case for rejecting GM food aid, first at the Third World Network teach-in on biotechnology, and again at an impromptu press conference a day later.
He described how Zambia’s president organised a big public debate and consultation in parliament. The tribal chiefs were invited to listen to the scientists, along with all other sectors of the country, the farmers, teachers, religious organisations, business, and so on. "The majority of the small farmers were against letting GE [genetically engineered] maize into our country. They said they would rather starve than use GE food."
A week later, the president announced the decision to reject the GM maize, and not to distribute any GM maize already in the country. He promised that money will be made available to purchase 300 000 tonnes of food for the hungry.
Lewanika stressed that ‘aid’ was not offered to Zambia. Money (US$51 million) was given as a loan to the private sector to import maize from the United States. When this maize was imported, Zambia was not informed that it was contaminated with GM maize. "US did not get prior consent from Zambia before shipping contaminated food grain to us." He said. "Hunger is a real issue in Zambia, however, there is still time to prepare and to provide GE-free food." Lewanika said, "We have food, but we have no capacity to distribute. We must put our house in order."
Offers of GM-free maize have come from Tanzania and Kenya as well as China and India to make up for the anticipated shortfall after the grain purchase, and a Christian organization also gave non-GM food after GM aid was refused. "The president is under great pressure, nevertheless, to accept GE food," Lewanika warned, and urged his fellow Africans to send messages of solidarity to Zambia, to say, "We are with you!"
That was enough to set his audience alight. They cheered and applauded loudly. One after another, African delegates stood up to declare solidarity with Zambia. Another offer of food came from a minister of Uganda there and then. She declared, "Let’s stop fighting each other, and help one another instead." "Money is controlling the science," said a delegate from Senegal.
A plant pathologist from Madagascar said he knew all along there were problems with GMOs. "They are saying to us, eat GMOs or die. Northern companies are conducting GMO research in Africa. Our laboratories are tied to Northern countries."
Supporting statements came thick and fast. "All scientists in Africa should unite against GM." "Draw the line: enough is enough!"
A delegate from Nigeria congratulated Zambia for taking a courageous stand, criticised the CGIAR for research that harms Africa, and called for African unity.
The delegate from Ethiopia, Million Belay, a speaker at the event, condemned the World Food Programme for "selling the interest of only one country", the United States. "Why don’t we put our house in order!" was the rallying cry. African countries are doing just that.
Sustainable intensification of agriculture has doubled and tripled food production in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the continent (see "Ethiopia to feed herself", this series). Many countries along the Sahara are pushing back the desert and turning the hills green, by integrating livestock in their farms and reintroducing traditional water conservation methods (see "Sustainable agriculture pushing back desert", Science in Society 2002, 15, 29).
Africa could well be on her way to self-determination and self-sufficiency, as the result of the United States’ widely condemned move to blackmail hungry nations into accepting GM food. This could go down in history as the most significant, albeit unintended, gains of the World Summit.