The Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Cocktail served to Africa: How good are GMOs?

African people are very welcoming towards the use of GMOs”
(Genetically Modified Organisms), at least that’s what you would think would be brave enough to come visit southern Africa in spring, my world’s farming season. The truth is, judging by the vast numbers of GMO foods and resources my government-RSA- has allowed to get into the country at least since 2007, you would most probably agree with the above quite ‘made up’ statement.

What are GMOs?
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. In layman terms; these are organisms that are either genetically engineered (made, enhanced, advanced or meddled with) by man.
Examples of GMOs include but are by no means limited to BT maize, soya beans, cotton and even some of broiler chicken mostly sold packaged from leading westernized food retailers.

Why do GMOs enjoy such fame?
Well as it is with everything else famous, GMOs are famous for mainly three reasons;
They are promoted by people through lobbying and mass media advertising The advertisers say they are they are the future of the world, essentially Africa and Asia because they have the most tangible promise to end world hunger.
The haters (criticizers) are making a lot of noise arguing that these foods are quite simply a Frankenstein monster. Just that it still very much in the closet while beautiful miss world is out there saying she not even closer to Frankenstein’s beauty.

Who benefits from the sale of GMOs?
Ok, the most relevant answer to the above question is “not the poor and needy people” these GMOs are meant to help but I guess you already knew the answer.

What do our governments say about GMOs?
You asked so here is their say “The regulations governing the use of GM crops in South Africa’ were robust and rigorous and that from the public health point, the risk assessment and risk management of the GM maize was adequately addressed.” Dr Aaron Motsoledi, Minister of Health-South Africa.

“It’s time for action and not talking. We need to be decisive and move forward, rather than taking years debating issues of science and technology, because issues such as biotechnology and nanotechnology are being debated for too many years,”
Zimbabwe’s Minister for Science and Technology Professor Heneri Dzinotyiweyi

2007—Former President, Thabo Mbeki: “As we all know, biotechnology can and must play a key role in addressing many of the challenges facing the African continent in particular and the developing world as a whole. This branch of knowledge is making and will make a critical contribution in terms of addressing contemporary and future needs in such areas as health, food and energy security, especially in the wake of major global challenges that include climate”

(AfricaBio, August 2013)

Now that we have that cleared, let us look at GMOs just a little more closser than some would like us to.
The answer to what GMOs are is, I think, adequately given by my little explanation above. To dig a bit deeper, I shall attempt to give a bit more detailed and unloved answers by answering the above two questions left not so well answered.

Why do GMOs enjoy so much fame?
As I stated earlier GMOs enjoy so much fame because of people. GMOs have some of the world’s biggest people making sure they get it exposed to people.
The truth is GMOs are genetically, made, modified and enhanced products that enjoy so much fame because huge sums of investments have been invested to create a vacuum that is by its nature actually artificial.
Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, Louise Dreyfus and many other big corporations have ever since dead was a baby, made sure that they create the need for GMOs, protect them and sell them in great quantities to a world of people so well that the people see no alternative to sorting out the need to eradicate hunger.
To achieve this aim, much effort has been put to research food patterns and put means in place to enforce free trade agreements that secure GMOs position as a food source for the billions of people and countless masses of farm animals. Here is a little example of what I mean: In 2007 Cargill
imported over 500 000 metric tones of maize from Argentina into South Africa while Louis Dreyfus imported almost 300 000 metric tones. Other international grain traders involved in this trade include Atlas Trading and Shipping and Seaboard, who together brought over 300 000 metric tones of GM grains into the country.3 A South African key player in the animal feed industry, Meadowfeeds, was also engaged in brisk trading during 2007 – importing about 250 000 metric tonnes4 of GMOs to produce “a variety of specialized diets and custom feed mixes for the poultry, dairy, ostriches and swine industries”.5 (Haidee Swanby GMO South Africa, 2008)

The advertisers of GMOs say GMOs are the future of Agriculture because they will help eradicate food insecurity. AfricaBio for example wrote that “2013 is the 15th year that GM crops are being planted in South Africa. Since their introduction 15 years ago, GM crops have made a significant impact on South Africa’s agriculture, farmers – emergent and commercial – food security, sustainability, climate change and food safety, with meaningful economic benefits to
producers”(AfricaBio, August 2013)
Another major advantage of GMOs is that the farming techniques used to produce them are more stringently regulated than are the techniques used in natural, traditional farming. As such they increase yield because they are better equipped at surviving weeds and other problems the usual variants at times fail to address. For example, soon enough (2017) we will have a GMO kind of maize that will be resistant to the drought problem southern Africa, India and even USA state of California is currently facing.

Ever heard of food fortification? The most wide spread and widely known food fortification is practiced in the salt industry where iodine, a crucial element to adequate functioning of the endocrine system, is added to salt to ensure its availability to the billions of poor Africans and Asians who would otherwise not get it.
It was so successful that most of my peers who would have otherwise suffered stunted growth are now as tall as I am. Because of this success, it is advocated that if we would fortify the world’s stable food crops we would end the effects of malnutrition so prevalent in mainly Asia and Africa. Pursuing this all important goal, research was commissioned and the 1990s saw the birth of Vitamin A fortified rice, a golden crop that would eliminate the problem of sight lose and death because of malnutrition. It is argued that the applications advantages of such crops are endless, GMO crops such as BT Maize for instance are:
Resistant to unwanted microbes (pests) that hurt crops
Ceres, a potato farming area in South Africa is said to be troubled by potato tuber mouth. Microbe resistant BT potatoes can be introduced to such areas to combat PTM and increase yield.
Some argue that GMOs reduce the costs of production since they have born-ready mechanisms to combat pests.
Drought resistant maize for instance will, it is promised, reduce need for water and therefore reduce water born costs related to farming maize.
Developing countries such as is the case with many African countries benefit greatly because of GM crops. Mid way to the end of the first decade saw developing countries growing GM crops gains ranging from $2 billion( India alone) to $5 billion( RSA, Argentina and others) per year(Martin Qaim, Benefits of Genetically Modified Crops-and the Cost of Inefficient Regulation April 2010)
The y reduce the need for labour because they allow the use of herbicides to kill weed.

Reading just the above few benefits, it is easy to see why GMOs appeal to many farmers in South Africa. But before you get carried away, here is what them critics, hatters of GMO based food sources say:

South Africans consume maize in a very different way to Americans and Europeans. In the North, maize makes up a negligible part of diets and is eaten in a highly processed form, such as corn oil or syrup. In contrast, many South Africans do not feel that they have eaten a meal unless it included “pap” (maize meal porridge). As a staple for the majority of South Africans, it is often a first
food for infants during weaning and is generally eaten by the majority of the South
African population in a minimally processed form daily (maize cobs, samp, maize meal). However, no controlled feeding studies have been carried out to assess the
immune response and allergenic potential59 of GM maize. In a country that has one
of the highest rates of full-blown AIDS in the world, and where the government is championing high quality nutrition, it is perplexing that the staple food of the
people is allowed to be compromised. (GMOs in South Africa Review 2008) The statement above was ACB’s response to Syngenta’s application made to the South African Government to import MIR 604xGA21 into South Africa.
I chose this one as an example because it high lights the very real implications that could befall a country that allow the use of GM crops as a food base for its citizens. Below are some few pointers that some major critics of GMO food crops say about GMOs.

-GMOs sold by Monsanto are sold (at almost no expressed choice to the farmer) paired with Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer cocktail. -The cocktail has resulted in the spread of a kind of super weed which is very resistant to the weed killer.
-The Roundup herbicide used in the farming of GMO crops is made using the chemical glypohsate as the core ingredient.
-Research has shown that glyphosate and GMOs may result in
complications in human health. This is because studies such as the Seralini et al study show serious health complications in rats due to their being fed GMO feeds grown using Roundup as the crop weed killer.(Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology)
-Dr Huber, a researcher on the use of Roundup has found that it is responsible for;
1. Imparement of plant growth
2. Decreased availability and usability of plant nutrients by plants 3. Some plants on which Roundup has been used experience the Sudden Death Syndrome

-A study conducted in Argentina found that in Soy bean farming areas residents experienced pre-mature birth, some birth defects, and some cancers, still births, in-ability to have children and still births (Chemical Research in Toxicology).
-In 2009 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a position paper on GMO plants stating that “animal studies indicate serious health risk associated with GM food consumption. These risks include infertility, immune deregulation, acceleration of aging, immune deregulation” and many other problems (Target China page111).

I personally do not think ACB was wrong to assert the ban of GMOs, nor was Russia and to some degree even China and South Africa.
At face value GMOs are good but once you sink your teeth into them, your teeth will crack and your gums bleed because you will end up confused.
There is much tangible evidence that outline the need and the benefits of GMO crops as a food base, even more so when it comes to South Africa, the African continent and Asia. Research such as the Seralini rat and GMO food study offer a horrid glimps of what could happen should we continue to eat GMOs and make Agri-business pockets fat. On the other hand…the stomach is a very tricky child. You cannot always succeed to help him avoid sweets and even though it is for his own good not to eat sweets, he will end up eating them in the end because he cannot help it.

With that in mind it is only fair to acknowledge that not every one on this GMO gravy train is evil. Some are more evil than others but some are actually advancing good intentions and trying to feed people born in countries where miss information and lies have resulted in the adoption of GMOs.
It is up to countries such as mine (South Africa) to ensure that their countries protect not only their own people but their neighbors’ as well.

Like any other thing under the sun, America and its allies are not all good. Sometimes they will advance a mistake only to find out too late that what they were advancing was a mistake.
Besides, must we always follow the Oval Office’s lead? Africa is not just a continent full of mouths to feed. It is the home of thinkers, innovators, inventors and leaders. It is mother natures’ s play ground let us keep it that way otherwise we will have nothing proudly ours.
Proudly African!

Target China
Africa Centre for Biosafety

{Additions to be added latter}
Photo of rat subject from Seralini’s research on GMOs taken from Target China Photo of RounUp affected field taken by Gift Sibiya


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