Friday November 26 2010

Risk of GMO to agriculture

By James Katorobo

Safe transportation facilities for GMOs lacking
There are internationally agreed protocols (the Cartagena Protocal0 for the safe transportation of GMOs. They are supposed to be transported in scientifically designed containerized facilities to ensured that the GMOs do not escape and contaminate the areas or communities through which they are being moved. Road and air transport systems in East Africa do not possess GMO safety facilities.

GMO handling facilities lacking in the country
In advanced countries where they are engaged in GMO production and processing, they have extensive networks of GMO research facilities and centers with the capacity to produce them under strict GMO safety measures and controls, most of them located in university-based research centers. These specialized facilities and capabilities do not exist in Uganda. So Uganda has no internal capacity to manage GMOs . There is a great risk to import them when there is no place to take them and manage them safely.

Risk of contamination of crops
It is impossible to protect community/peasant crops from being contaminated by GMO . Even if GMO crops are planned in isolated locations and away from community /peasant crops and gardens, the birds and other insects that carry out cross pollinations will carry the GMO pollen from the GMO supposedly isolated gardens and take them to non GMO gardens. So GMOs crops will spread throughout the country. No one will escape any negative consequences of GMO genetic crop transformations.

GMO crops may be inferior
Uganda’s cotton variety is renowned for its superior quality especially, having longest fiber. It is cherished and sought after in international markets. GMO cotton does not have these superior qualities. Moreover, having developed in the laboratory, it is not adaptable to peasant production methods. Peasants do not have the costly inputs required to nurture GMO crops. GMO cotton required the intensive use of herbicides that have been developed to protect them.

Global multinationals and the GMO conspiracy
Monsanto is the global multinational that sells herbicides is behind the investment that has been put into developing GMO crops that depend on herbicides for their survival. Increased use of GMO cotton means increased demand and buying of herbicides and more profits for the Monsanto.

Terminator seeds and GMOs
GMO technology is being used to produce what are called terminator seed. These seeds can only be used once. If seeds are harvested from terminator crops, and the seeds are planted they will not grow. This forces farmers to always go to buy GMO seed to plan. It will be recalled that indigenous farmers had knowledge of seed selection for planning during the next growing season. Even government-funded seed production and distribution programmes have been killed. Kawanda research Institute used to be a rich source of seeds and other crop planting materials. Not anymore.

Decisions on GMO crops to develop
Kawanda has been contacting GMO joint research in collaboration with South Africa. Since Kawanda is the inferior dependent partner, the most important decisions about which crops to conduct GMO research have been determined by South African researchers. For example, South African GMO research on the banana have focused on the Cavendish variety.

The existing GMO policy allows importation
Any importation of live GMOs is a violation of existing policies. Those in violation of these polices know that the Uganda borders and entrance points are porous and devoid of mechanisms to detect illegal importation of GMOs. A new policy is required. And if the policy requires legislative permission, then the policy must be presented to parliament for a law to be passed. And when a law is passed, then regulation can be put in place. Since the GMOs pose a great danger to society, a policy is not enough, there must be a law. The level of adoption of agricultural technology is so low that incomes of farmers could be tripled by adoption of available and less costly simple methods and techniques of production.

GMOs being produced illegally
The GMO Bill that has been pending in parliament for about ten years is breaking the record for delayed and rejected legislation proposals. Even before it was presented to Parliament it was rejected by Cabinet several times. The national biosafety committee that was pushing it realized that it would not pass through and decided to go ahead and start GMO testing at Kawanda. These activities are illegal.

Extensive land alienation and depopulation
Since it is difficult to separate GMO gardens from non-GMO gardens, GMOs are being grown in countries in which peasant have been driven off the land such as Brazil, South Africa, and USA. Note that GM crops have been successfully resisted in Europe. The adoptions of GMOs in a country in which peasants are scattered over the countryside is impracticable, and immoral. We cannot now alienate land for we have not where to transfer the rural populations.

Keeping GMOs outside human food chain In the USA ,they adopted a policy of producing GMO crops but keeping it out of the human food chain. GMO products are taken to specialised factories when they can be turned into non-food products such as fuels. It should be noted that Uganda does not have such factories. Even when they have abundant families, institutions, and staff to cope with, the hazards of GMOs, the USA had GMO scandal in which GMO maize ended up in supermarkets. Thanks to abundant consumer protection agencies, the maize was discovered in time and all of it was recalled from supermarkets throughout the country. In Uganda, we do not have this capacity. Do a Google search for GMO scandals. You will be shocked at what you will find. In Kenya members of Parliament have carried out major campaign against GMOs , but they had been asleep when GMO supportive laws were passed in Parliament.

GMO crops being developed and tested
One of the pressures on Uganda is that GMO crops are being tested near the Uganda border on the Kenya side. And so the birds can carry the GMO genes into Uganda agriculture communities in the Uganda border and in the long run into the interior. The fight against GMOs must be carried out into Kenya and Tanzania as well.

Prof. Katorobo led a study of GMO policy in Uganda for the Centre for Basic Research, funded by IDRC of Canada. These points are part of a paper he presented in Italy