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A newly released report by Friends of the Earth International, claims that US agencies, funders such as the Gates Foundation, and agribusiness giant Monsanto are trying to force unwilling African countries to accept expensive and insufficiently tested Genetically Modified (GM) foods and crops.
The report entitled “Who benefit from GM crops?” says that agribusiness giant Monsanto influences biosafety legislations in African countries, gains regulatory approval for its product, and clears the path for products such as GM corn.
In Africa, only four countries namely, South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Sudan, have released GM crops commercially but the issue of genetically modified maize is deeply controversial, given that maize is the staple food of millions of Africans.
There are several concerns for developing countries mentioned in the report, such as, limited financial resources to deal with damages should they occur and also to develop the capacity to regulate and monitor GMOs.
Other concerns includes the existence of the gene pools of the world’s major crops, representing vast reservoirs of genetic diversity needed to deal with future agricultural problems, especially in the face of climate change.
There are two centers of diversity in Africa, one is in Ethiopia and this need to be protected from genetic contamination, the report warns.
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, a Pan-African civil society network, has condemned USAID-funded guidelines developed by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in no uncertain terms, stating that the “COMESA policy aggressively promotes the wholesale proliferation of GM organisms on the African continent by way of commercial plantings, commodity imports and food aid and defy international biosafety law.”
The report also alleged USAID that it provided funds to set up COMESA’s Regional Approach to Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy in Eastern and Southern Africa (RABESA) project, which was tasked with developing a mechanism for regulating biosafety in the COMESA region.