GM Industry Expands into Africa with Traditional Crops

sugarcane in Africa

New reports reveal that ‘philanthropic’ organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as similar entities with over $360 billion in combined assets, are edging themselves into Africa’s food market by genetic engineering of African cultural food staples.

The biotech industry is trying to own the traditional food supply by introducing genetically modified (GM) cassava, pigeon pea, sweet potato, sorghum, cowpea, banana, and even rice, a commercial crop. This is being done via ‘philanthropic programs’ targeting key countries like South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Egypt.

The report from the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) corroborates what other sources are now reporting – that 137 billionaires from 14 countries have pledged to give to this ‘humanitarian’ cause to help poor countries become more ‘food stable.’

The fascinating irony is that GM crops have done just the opposite almost everywhere they have been introduced. Organizations like Food Sovereignty Ghana describe exactly what GM crops have done to Africans. Similarly, a report from Cibo Sostensible states that:

“…as a result of the advancement of industrialization of the food chain at the hands of agribusiness corporations since 1996 —the year when genetically modified crops started being grown—the number of undernourished and obese people — a phenomenon that is now synonymous to poverty, and not wealth — has increased.”

Africa is clearly not the only continent that has been affected negatively. Others also have experienced what happens when traditional crops are allowed to be genetically engineered:

“GM crop cultivation accelerated the displacement of small and mid-sized producers and impoverished them, while replacing a considerable part of the workforce with machinery, thus increasing rural unemployment. For example, in Argentina, GM crops and their so -called “sowing pools” (pools de siembra) led to a veritable “reverse agrarian reform,” eliminating a large part of small and mid-sized agricultural establishments.”

Related Read: Country in West Africa Refuses GMO Bt Cotton

The ACB report also highlights the convoluted money trail that sustains the ‘scientific research’ promising that the cultivation of GM crops will help the poorest of the poor. Several multinational corporations make royalty-free donations of various patented GM traits to experimental programs undertaken by African scientists employed by government ministries. Those multinationals include Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, formerly Pioneer Hi-Bred.


In other words, the money trail leads back to the industry conducting its own ‘safety’ tests on GM products that it creates. The fact that mainstream academia is so ignorant of the problems with GM cultivation is also testament to the extreme secrecy under which any ‘scientific’ information is made available.

Even more sickening is the thought that cultural staples called ‘orphan crops’ – grown primarily by women on small farms throughout Africa to feed their families – would be taken over by multinational conglomerates. More than 100 of these orphan crops have been singled out by the biotech industry to ‘enhance’ through genetic manipulation.

The industry is promising to make these staple crops more ‘nutritious’ or ‘easier to grow.’ But golden rice – the touchstone crop hailed as a savior for those suffering from Vitamin A deficiency – has been a failure.

Translation: If financially elite organizations can control the most necessary crops down to a grassroots level, then they can control the entire food supply of a nation – giving themselves the power of life and death. This attempt has been made elsewhere as well. In Mexico, Monsanto tried to undo 7000 years of heirloom, non-GM corn cultivation. Fortunately, this greed has been fought against every step of the way, with multiple counter-suits against Monsanto and their ilk, despite millions being poured into the legal system by the industry.

These elite are not ‘helping’ poor countries. Instead, they’re taking over the countries’ food supplies by replacing normal crops with genetically modified ones. According to the African Centre for Biodiversity’s Director, Mariam Mayet:

“This indicates that the GM industry, under the veil of technology donations and public financing, is effectively managing to make further inroads into imposing GM on the African continent. By focusing the research on traits meant to ‘benefit’ farmers and malnourished populations, through inter alia, biofortification, the industry is intent on giving a humanitarian face to the real involvement, vested interests and expanding influence of these MNCs [multi-national companies] in African agriculture.

There is no such thing as a free lunch for African farmers. And to add insult to injury, these farmers will be precluded from reusing any farm-saved propagating material. In this way, they will be expected to give away their age old farmers’ rights to freely reuse, exchange and sell seed and propagating materials in their farming and seed systems.”

The ACB report’s executive summary explains the problem very succinctly. It names GE crops as a reductionist solution to the poverty and nutritional deficiencies the world currently faces. If we are to really solve this global problem, it will require exposing the failed technology of GMOs.

The fact that the biotech industry is now targeting less mass-produced cultivars, like cassava, sorghum, and sweet potatoes, is more evidence that they plan to take over the food supply completely. Their greed is extending into the very foods that peasant farmers rely upon to feed themselves in the most food-insecure places. And since the biotech industry is doing it under the guise of ‘philanthropy’ makes these actions even more loathsome.


Sustainable Pulse

African Centre for Biodiversity