By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
Lat week I read with great interest the interview given by Dr Tadesse Daba, Director of Agricultural Biotechnology with Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) (Capital April 28, 2019). The doctor tried to brief us about the advantages of consuming GM foods. GMO is an abbreviation that stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It is also used to refer to food products. A writer named Crystal Ayres says in one of her pieces that GMO is created when the genes from one species are artificially forced, in laboratory conditions, in to gene structures of unrelated plants or animals. These genes can originate from any living being, plants, or creature, including humans, and be forced in to the genetic structure of any other living organism.
In the said interview we readers were told by Dr Tadesse only about the advantages of GMO. He said that GM crops are useful for their economic advantages… for the fact that they can solve the biotic problems. He also taught us that GM crops would deter the huge financial allotment for chemical pesticides or herbicides and avoid loss of productivity. GMO improves the nutritional composition of the crops and has tremendous economic implications, according to Tadesse. “They [GM crops] are very safe,” is the very statement articulated by him!
What surprised me most and pushed me to grab my pen is his failure to expound the disadvantages of GMO. Does this mean there is not any disadvantages of GMO? Aren’t there researches that denounce the promotion of GMO? Aren’t there scientists who condemn the initiatives taken by world class mega corporations, like Monsanto, to promote GMO in Africa and other countries? What I can conclude from the interview is that so long as we are beggars, we don’t deserve any chance to choose what we consume. I personally feel that this is a “beggars are not choosers” type of message.
If Dr Tadesse is not bold enough to tell us about the disadvantages of GM foods, let me raise some issues regarding the basic demerits. Global Research (an independent media organization based in Montreal Canada) disseminated a newsletter on December 18, 2014 stating that 124 food and outreach organizations, as well as 26 individual scientists, have signed onto a letter sent to Bill & Malinda Gates Foundation protesting ongoing human trials of genetically modified beta-carotene-enriched bananas intended for Africa. The newsletter further indicates that “most independent research to date suggests that GMOs can induce allergies, trigger autoimmune disorders and even cause cancer, especially after many years of consumption”.
A book, Seeds of Destruction, authored by F. William Engdahl, recounts about the findings of a Russian Scientist, Dr. Irina Ermakova, of the Russian Academy of sciences. Her study found out that more than half of the offspring of rats fed on genetically modified soybean diet died in the first three weeks of life – six times as many as those born to mothers with normal diets. “Dr. Ermakova added flour from Monsanto’s soybean to the food of rats, starting two weeks before they conceived, continuing through pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were given non-GM soybeans, and a third group was given no soybean at all. The Russian scientist was alarmed to find that 36 percent of the young of rats fed the diet of modified soybeans were severely underweight, compared to 6 percent of the offspring of the other groups. More alarmingly, a staggering 55.6 percent of those born to mothers on the GMO diet died within three weeks of birth, compared to 9 percent of the offspring of those fed normal soybeans, and 6.8 percent of young of those given no soybeans at all.” The most important thing here is that the morphology and biochemical structures of rats are very similar to those of humans, and this makes the results very disturbing.
Seeds of Destruction (book) dubbed Argentina as the First Guinea Pig for GMO. When the mammoth Rockefeller GMO project was launched, its chosen location was Argentina, where David Rockefeller and Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank had cultivated close ties to the newly-named President, Carlos Menem. The agricultural land and the population of Argentina were slated to become the first mass testing ground, the first guinea pigs for GMO crops. William further exposed in his famous book about the adverse effects GMO has brought about to Argentina. “In the more tranquil era of the 1970’s, before the New York banks stepped in, Argentina enjoyed one of the highest living standards in Latin America. The percentage of its population officially below the poverty line was 5% in 1970. By 1998, that figure had escalated to 30% of the total population. And by 2002, to 51 %. By 2003, malnutrition rose to levels estimated at between 11% and 17% of the total population of 37 million. Amid the drastic national economic crisis arising from the state’s defaulting on its debt, Argentines found they were no longer able to rely on small plots of land for their survival. The land had been overrun by mass GMO soybean acreages and blocked to even ordinary survival crops.”
I read a news item written by Global Research in January 29, 2017 that Nigeria’s Farmers Alliance protested the distribution of GMO and hybrid seeds to farmers in Northeast part of the country. It was stated that Nigeria’s Farmers Alliance of over 14 million farmers have called on all farmers especially in the Northeast to reject the genetically modified organisms (GMO) and Hybrid seeds distributed by the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) and the World bank. According to this news document, natural crops that were destroyed by hired mercenaries called Boko Haram would be replaced with GMO and Hybrid seeds from Monsanto (US-based Chemical company established in 1901) and Cargill (American privately held corporation). “This would mean that after this first cropping season with the GMO and Hybrid seeds planted in the entire Northeast food basket of Nigeria, the Food Security of Nigeria would be effectively captured by Monsanto! Farmers cannot replant the patented GMO and Hybrid seeds from Monsanto.” Every planting season they must go to Monsanto seed brokers to purchase the seeds at a cost they cannot afford. “The cost of seeds from Monsanto could go as high as 30 times as was the experience in India with Bt Cotton, where hundreds of thousands of farmers committed suicide because they could not meet up with costs of seeds.”
A document written by Christina Sarich of Natural Society in 2014 indicates about the existence of “over 1,700 independent scientific studies that have linked GMOs to some type of harm to farm animals, insects, people and the environment”. … In 2010 Monsanto adopted an approach of exploiting desperate poor Haitian farmers in the aftermath of the earth quake, but the Haitian farmers caught Monsanto and destroyed the GMO seeds. In 2011, Hungary burnt all the Monsanto GMO and Hybrid corn fields similar to that in the Northeast Nigeria, citing health, environmental and food security concerns. Other European countries including Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria have banned planting GMO and Hybrid seeds.
Arjun Walia, wrote for ‘Activist Post’ stating that over the past few years, a number of countries have completely banned GMOs and the pesticides that go along with them, and they are doing so for a reason. The latest country to consider a complete ban, reportedly, is Russia after top government scientists recommended at least a 10-year ban.
A news item posted by Reuters in December 26, 2013 narrates about China’s rejection of GM corm from US. China has turned away about 2,000 tonnes of U.S. dried distillers grains (DDGs), a corn by-product. More rejections are expected as Beijing imposes strict checks over an unapproved GM crops. The news further states that the move follows the rejection of more than half a million tonnes of U.S. corn after authorities detected the presence of MIR 162, a GMO variety developed by Syngenta AG (Swiss-based agrochemical producing company) and not approved for import by China’s agriculture ministry.
Dr Tadesse said in his interview that Ethiopian farmers in various parts of the country have started using seedlings of GM crops like banana, coffee, pine apple, ginger and others. What I am concerned about is the adverse consequences our poor farmers will face in the future. Once they remove the indigenous organic crops and replace them with the GM seeds, they all will fall victims of the giant profit-making companies like Monsanto. The poor farmers will have to get permission from these corporations if they need to buy and sow seeds and plant seedlings of the new genetically modified crops. They will face charges if they try to use the crops without the consent of these corporations.
Seeds of Deception, another book written by Jeffrey M. Smith, recounts the following story. Bill Lashmett watched as two or three cows were let into a feeding area at a time. The first trough they came to, contained fifty pounds of shelled Bt corn. The cows sniffed it, withdrew, and walked over to the next trough, which contained fifty pounds of natural shelled corn. The cows finished it off. When they were done and released from the pen, the next group came in and did the same thing. Lashmett said the same experiment was conducted on about six or seven farms in Northwest lowa, in 1998 and again in 1999. Identical trials with hogs yielded the same results, also for two years in a row. Lashmett, who has a background in biochemistry and agriculture, says that animals have a natural sense to eat what is good for them, and avoid what isn’t. He witnessed this first hand in another experiment conducted by a feed store in Walnut Grove, lowa.
Surprisingly, Dr Tadesse tried to tell us about the “very safe” GM crops which are detested by animals. He also denied the very fact that the GM seeds could be monopolized by the mega corporations like Monsanto… What I can suggest here is that we all should take initiative to unveil the hidden truth that the problems being witnessed in India, Nigeria, Argentina and many other countries can indisputably be reflected here in Ethiopia… Does Tadesse need this to happen to local farmers of his country? Does he need to see Ethiopian farmers while committing suicide like those poor farmers in India? Does Dr Tadesse like to see the spread of super weeds and bugs (caused by GMOs) across this country? … I don’t think so!
Anyone who is interested to read books on GMO can get soft copies from this writer through: firstname.lastname@example.org