Thursday 20th November 2014

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Going pro-GMO; the good, the bad, the evil? PDF Print E-mail
By Eskedar Kifle   
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 06:20


The debates on Generically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been around for a long time in the developed world. In Africa it is fairly recent and in Ethiopia a lot of people are not aware of it.
In the developed world, it seems that different sets of companies have done researches and the outcome has been two different points; those that stated GMOs are not harmful to the environment and health among other things and those that state it is dangerous in every way.
Coming to our little corner of the world, in Ethiopia, a bio-safety law has been put in place that enforces a strict provision on importing GMOs. The country was actually one of the few to pass the law and it was something that was commended by many, especially environmentalists.
GMO is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. This altered material is very big in agriculture; it is highly promoted as the modified crop seeds have the special traits such as resistance to pests, herbicides and increased nutrition value.
Now, the above facts seem good, more than that, they seem fantastic! I mean, isn’t that what we need in Africa? We are a continent known for poverty, conflict and food insecurity. So at least if we could solve the food insecurity part with GMO seeds that are able to give us so much more yield that we wouldn’t know what to do with it, it should be a huge relief right? Well, not really.
I am not a scientist, so I cannot explain the pros and cons of GMOs with a clear scientific explanation that will be able to convince everyone. But without knowing much about the exact scientific details, I have come to be against GMOs.
It is interesting how most developed countries do not allow GMO seeds or food products in their countries. Obviously they are not doing this because they have enough to eat and they don’t need anymore, no. They are doing this because they understand that there are a few things that are wrong with GMOs.
Many smallholder farmers have argued that GMO seeds are not as productive as they are made. In fact, they say that after the seeds provide yield the first year, they fail to do so in the next years to come. They also leave the soil basically unusable.
Heath practitioners have stated over and over that food products from GMOs have several health risks such as cancer. This, as they say, is due to several hormones that come from the modified food ingredients.
According to many farmers, there is absolutely no need for GMOs as old methods of saving seeds for farming can do pretty well on its own with the appropriate fertilizers.
So I’m thinking, the reason most developed countries such as those in Europe, don’t want any trace of GMOs entering their country is because they do not want some roasted beef hyped up on hormones on the said of good old cancer.
All of the above is just some of the reason why I am a bit worried to hear that the bio-safety law, which I assume was put there for a very good reason in the first place, could now be amended to make it a bit easier for GMOs to enter our country. Once it enters the country, unless it is released in a very tightly controlled environment, it might bring unimaginable consequence.
Although it seems like Africa has been progressing well and the continent’s say is beginning to be heard on international platforms, we still remain to be extremely poor. This means those with better capacities and some money to spend can still twist our hands to basically make us do what is not in our interest or benefit. 
Obviously, the Ethiopian government is quiet capable of making well informed decisions, especially when it comes to something as sensitive as GMOs. So, if indeed this bio-safety law is amended and GMO starts coming in, I would very much like to believe that we will have it under control, because if we don’t, it is a platter of some environmental degradation with a side order of cancer for everybody. Bon Appétit.

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