Africa GMO biohazard
1. African Centre for Biosafety releases updated GMO biohazard maps
Media release, 21 February 2008 http://www.biosafetyafrica.net/portal/images/ACB/files/gmobiohazardmapsfincomp.pdf
Their ability to escape into the environment is well known. Their safety for people with allergies remains in question. Yet we continue to experiment with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and some have even been commercially released. And yes, they may be growing, undetected, unmarked and right out in the open in a field near you.
How would you ever know? If the Department of Agriculture and the biotechnology industry have their way, you should never find out. Unless, of course, you fall ill.
These are precisely the concerns that have spurred the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) to bring information, especially ‘biohazard maps’, showing the areas in which the trials are taking place, to the general public.
'Questions around GMO field trials in South Africa continue to be asked – where exactly are they happening, when will there be adequate environmental risk assessment and post–release monitoring, what are the effects on neighbours of GMO field trials and what are the cumulative effects of all the field trials that have happened in South Africa?' says ACB director, Mariam Mayet.
Within this context, the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has sought to place more information in the public domain and highlight some of the issues around GMO field trials in South Africa.
In January 2007, a briefing document Field trials of GMOs: who is doing what and where in South Africa was produced. This was a focus on field trials that occurred in 2006. A GMO Biohazard Map of South Africa was also produced.
In November 2007, data for field trials as well as medical clinical trials for the year were obtained from the Department of Agriculture using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). An overview of these GMO trials plus an updated GMO Biohazard Map have just been released and are available on the ACB website.
'The latest report contains both good and bad news,' says Mayet. 'The good news is that there were significant refusals as a result of anti-GMO activism. More good news is that there were far fewer field trials during 2007 than 2006.'
The bad news is that there were 21 different field sites in 2007, as well as 11 medical clinical trials including GM HIV vaccine and GM TB vaccine. 'The 21 field sites involved GM potatoes, GM cotton, GM maize, GM sugarcane, GM groundnuts and GM maize. Trials were conducted by both the gene giants and also public sector research institutions.'
'One of the biggest problems is that neither biotech companies nor the Department of Agriculture are prepared to reveal exactly which fields have been planted with GMOs,' says Mayet. 'This is considered 'commercially confidential information'.'
'The public and farmers are deliberately kept in the dark,' she continues. 'This is completely unacceptable. Who will pay for damages to people's health or the environment? Will our government or Big Biotech foot the bill for the decontamination of our environment or for the damages to traditional and organic seeds?'
'People need to know exactly where these trials are going on and to lobby for more information to be made available,' Mayet insists. 'Farmers and smallholders who live next to experimental fields have a right to know, both from a health and environmental point of view.'
For further information, contact Mariam Mayet of the AFRICAN CENTRE FOR BIOSAFETY on 083 269 4309, Suite 3, 12 Clamart Street, Richmond, 2192 South Africa, or http://www.biosafetyafrica.net
Issued on behalf of the African Centre for Biodiversity by Michelle Nel on 011 615 4432 or 083 208 7902
2. Displacing Africa's Indigenous Food: Monsanto and AATF's GM Cowpea Project
The African Centre for Biosafety's briefing paper titled 'Displacing Africa's Indigenous Food: Monsanto and AATF's GM Cowpea Project' cab be downloaded here
ACB COMMENT: Cowpea is one of the most ancient crops known to humankind, with its center of origin and subsequent domestication being closely associated with pearl millet and sorghum. Whilst India and China are centres of origin for cowpeas, Africa is regarded as another cradle because of the prolific occurrence of the plants in the wild in many parts of Africa.
Monsanto and industry backed African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) have teamed up to push GM cowpeas into Africa over the next couple of years. They have identified Nigeria and Burkina Faso as key entry points, with Ghana, Cameroon, Niger and Mali comprising the second tier of countries that will be targeted. The project is assisted by Nigeria- based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), one of the 15 agricultural research institutes of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
We have examined a Project Business Plan drawn up by AATF and present our critique of the same in the attached briefing. We have come to the conclusion that it reads like a pure top-down proposal initiated by Monsanto, who is in need of a new 'Makhathini type showcase for Africa.' The true aim of the project is to displace current cowpea varieties in the hands of African farmers by the introduction of a GM variety.
Please do give us some feedback on our 'new look' briefing paper and trial logo, the work of a most talented Adam Rumball of Sharkbuoys Designs: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are working on producing a new look website, to match the logo. Your inputs will be most valued.