Gene crops no help to Africa so far - report
Tue Jan 10, 2006 5:46 PM GMT172
By Manoah Esipisu
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Gene-altered crops have made little impact in ending rampant poverty and hunger in Africa or elsewhere a decade after the first significant plantings, two anti-GMO lobbyists said on Tuesday.
The Africa Centre for Biosafety and Friends of the Earth Nigeria said in a report issued in Johannesburg that promises by biotech corporations that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would offer cheap quality food for Africa remained unfulfilled.
"Contrary to the promises made by the biotech industry, the reality of the last 10 years shows that the safety of GM crops cannot be ensured and that these crops are neither cheaper nor (of) better quality," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
"Biotech crops are not a solution to solve hunger in Africa or elsewhere," he said in the report.
But U.S. biotech giant Monsanto rejected that conclusion, saying there were thousands of documented benefits of GMO technologies in South Africa, China, India and parts of America.
"With the exception of South Africa, which still produces a surplus of food, no other African, poverty stricken country has yet had the opportunity to plant transgenic food crops -- they are still in the process of implementing regulatory legislation," Andrew Bennett, a Johannesburg-based Monsanto official, told Reuters.
"So, clearly, these technologies have not had the opportunity to impact hunger and poverty. It is not coincidental that the only country in Africa that has approved transgenic crops is the only one with a surplus of grain and is also able to supply food to its neighbours," Bennett added.
The report said GMO crops in Africa would not solve hunger because most crops so far available were meant for animal feed and did not target hunger or poverty.
It said the GMO sweet potato in Kenya, presented by researchers as a key crop to help African agriculture, had shown little success by the end of January 2004.
It also said that after 10 years of GMO crop cultivation more than 80 percent of the area cultivated with biotech crops was still concentrated in only three countries -- the United States, Argentina and Canada.
Intensive cultivation of GMO soybeans in South America contributed to deforestation, and had been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion, the report added.
Monsanto's Bennett said his group and other biotech corporations were profit-driven but gains from their work could be traced around the world where 7 million farmers in 17 countries had planted 81 million hectares of transgenic crops.