What African farmers got right
What African Farmers Got Right
Gaia Foundation, 5 November 2010
Press Statement from African Biodiversity Network
The programme suggests that were it not for the external pressure of Northern environmental organisations, Africans would be happily eating Genetically Modified foods by now, and hunger would be a distant memory.
As a network of organisations based in 12 African countries, the African Biodiversity Network strongly opposes these ridiculous and malicious claims. Prior to the screening of the documentary, ABN signed a letter addressed to Channel 4 from over 50 organisations in the South.
Zachary Makanya of PELUM-Kenya and chair of ABN states "African farmers repeatedly tell us that they want nothing to do with GM crops. As GM companies forbid farmers to save their seed, and force them to buy new seed every season, the 80% of African smallholder farmers who save their seed say 'No to GMOs'."
Dr Tewolde Berhan Egzhiaber, Head of the Dept for Environment in Ethiopia and a co-founder of ABN adds, "Once a GM crop is grown, it will inevitably cross-pollinate with neighbouring related crops and wild plants. Africa’s vast genepool of indigenous seed varieties is far too precious to contemplate losing to careless contamination. Researchers have barely bothered to investigate the real potential of these indigenous and locally-adapted varieties to meet diverse nutritional and climate needs. There is no evidence, especially in small-holder farmer conditions, that GM crops increase production."
To the claim that GM can improve the nutrient content of African crops, Anne Maina of the ABN responds: "Genetically modifying crops for increased nutrition is just an insidious way of saying that Africa should be kept on the most basic starvation diet. We do not need GM technology, when we know it would be cheaper and more effective for African farmers to grow and eat a healthy diversity of crops. With GM Golden Rice a person would have to eat several kilos of this rice every day, to get the same amount of Vitamin A in a single carrot. The idea that GM will offer any nutritional benefits to Africans is ridiculous."
Zachary Makanya continues, "What the Green Movement Got Wrong was an insult to the very people it purports to care about. The programme did not include Southern farmers' voices, and implied that Africans do not have the intelligence to think for themselves. The ABN is here to dispel that myth and to tell the film's producers that it is they who have failed to understand the real issues."
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Press Statement from Gaia Foundation
Southern NGOs speak out against Channel 4 pro-GMO documentary
Last night a documentary was shown on Channel 4 which attacked the green movement as holding back the potential of GM in southern continents such as Africa.
The documentary, What the Green Movement Got Wrong, has been made by the same production company behind the highly controversial film The Great Global Warming Swindle, aired by Channel 4 last year.
In a letter sent to Channel 4 on Tuesday 2nd November, over 50 organisations from Africa, Asia and Latin America expressed their anger at the biased nature of the documentary, which completely fails to present the voice of farmer and local organisations in the South.
"This programme promotes the role of genetically modified products in food security in the global South, but on this issue, there are only two Southern-based commentators, Florence Wambugu and Shanthu Shantharam, both of whose employment is funded by major GMO companies.
"We are tired of the corporate campaigns which claim to speak for the global South and allege that western-based non-governmental organisations are imposing their beliefs about genetically modified food on our countries," said the letter's signatories.
Shahid Zia of Pakistan Dehqan Assembly, in Pakistan adds "The suggestion that GM technology can address the causes of hunger and malnutrition in the South is completely false. The most fertile lands across the South are used to produce export crops such as cotton, flowers, cocoa and biofuels, instead of actual food to be eaten by our people. Can Dr Wambugu and her Monsanto colleagues engineer a gene to stop this madness?"
Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation adds: "For decades the GM industry has sold itself as the saviour of the hungry on unproven hype. But all the evidence from India, South Africa and Argentina shows it is far more likely to bring poverty, debt, landlessness and suicide to the small farmers in the South that it claims to save. It is a complete farce that a documentary about GM fails to even mention the numerous socio-economic issues surrounding corporate control and patents of seeds."
Shahid Zia adds "The critical importance of seed saving to our small-scale farmers is often underestimated by people in the North. The What the Green Movement Got Wrong programme neglected to mention that Monsanto's strategy of tripling seed prices and then criminalising the saving of seed, takes away the very basis of farmers' livelihoods. That is why there was a rather glaring absence of actual farmers' voices anywhere on the programme."
 Creating Food Insecurity, Press Statement by Dr. Vandana Shiva and Navdanya, India.
 Bt Cotton and Small-scale Farmers in Makhathini A Story of Debt, Dependency, and Dicey Economics, by Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss, Biowatch South Africa.
 Argentina: A Case Study on the Impact of Genetically Engineered Soya, Executive Summary, 2004, EcoNexus, Gaia Foundation, Grupo de ReflexiÃ³n Rural.
 Monsanto vs Farmers, Center for Food Safety Report, 2007