LUMUMBA: Monsanto not entirely honest about GMOs
6 months ago, 14 Mar 10:47
American biotechnology giant, Monsanto, has recently renewed its quest to popularise genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as Kenya and Africa’s best bet against hunger. In an interview published in the Business Daily two weeks ago, Monsanto’s vice-president for global commercial and supply chain - Jesus Madrazo - said GMO crops provided Africa with the right technology and opportunity to respond to challenges like climate change and impact on food production. Our observation is that Mr Madrazo did not fully explore the multiple reasons for the declining output but instead chose to blame it largely on climate change – for which GMOs are constantly prescribed as the solution. Nothing could be further from the truth. No consensus Like many countries around the world, Kenya’s reluctance to approve environmental release of GMO crops points to the fact that there is no consensus among stakeholders that genetic modification is the panacea to food insecurity. Indeed, the possible adverse effects of GMOs on human health have not been empirically scrutinised by organisations such as Monsanto to allay food safety concerns related to this technology. It cannot be argued that the government of Kenya is making a mistake in protecting its citizens from eating potentially harmful foods when healthy alternatives abound. More importantly, it is worth noting that Monsanto owns more than 80 per cent of all GMO germplasm in the world and finances the bulk of GM research (with obvious partiality in terms of research design) and, therefore, has a direct and overriding interest in GM adoption in Kenya. This should not be overlooked by policy makers at the expense of public health. Mr Madrazo’s responses to certain questions during the interview were particularly disconcerting. For instance, when asked about Monsanto’s relevance in the emerging dispensation where climate change is posing a major challenge to food security, his answer was simply the adaptation of biotechnology. Never mind that climate change is only one variable in our food production matrix. In our experience, the main reasons for declining output is declining soil fertility due to misuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, application of sub-standard chemical fertilizers and pesticides, causing high acidity in our soils (all owing to lack of farm-level technical advice) and over-reliance on rain-fed farming. There’s need for revival of extension service, and intensification of post-product registration surveillance by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) to ensure consistency in the efficacy and public health profile of pest control products. Misuse of fertiliser, pesticides It is our position as Kenya Pyrethrum Joint Venture, that intensified food production, by itself, may not yield the desired results if regulations governing food safety, from farm-to-fork, are not reviewed to enhance public health and environmental conservation through adoption of pyrethrum-based natural, organic pesticides, which are proven to be healthy safer to humans and the environment and have greater knock-down effect on pests, compared to synthetics. The food we produce is increasingly becoming unsafe owing to high acidity in our soils and this is a problem we see consistently across ...
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