What do African Farmers Think of GM Crops?
In spite of genetically modified (GM) crops being available since 1995, very limited adoption has occurred in any part of Africa. In large part, this is due to the message coming from European governments and environmental organizations. European governments have continually rejected biotechnology for themselves and halted commodity trade when GM crops are detected. This sends the message that if GM crops are adopted, African countries should expect trade losses when they export commodities to Europe. Additionally, European-based environmental non-governmental organizations (eNGOs) have continually mislead African political leaders about the dangers of adopting GM crops (Greenpeace, 2011; Wigen, 2016, para. 3; Lynas, 2013, para. 17).
While many European politicians and eNGOs are acting as food security terrorists for Africa, what do Africa’s GM crop adopting farmers think?
African Farmer Testimonials
In a recent perspective on how Europe’s eNGOs contribute to food insecurity, Margaret Karembu, Director of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application’s office in Nairobi, Kenya provides the following comments from farmers that grown GM crops.
Maria Swele, Limpopo province, South Africa
I was inspired into Bt cotton farming 4 years ago by my former employer … a large-scale farmer. He discouraged me from taking up a clerical office job but instead try out 5 hectares of Bt cotton and that has made all the difference in my life. In 4 years, I have increased area of production tenfold to 50 hectares of Bt cotton. Venturing into Bt cotton enterprise has been rewarding, enabling me to purchase 2 tractors, a car and a house. I have also managed to pay for my younger sister’s education. Attending to our crops is so much easier and has drastically reduced labour. We no longer need to carry crude tools to weed and spray as most of this is now done mechanically (Karembu, 2017,para. 22).
Elameen Alzain, Sudan
When you plant Bt cotton, you are assured of high quality and quantity. There is no guarantee with the old varieties. I saw an opportunity to improve my lifestyle. The yields were very high and with no bollworm damage, I realized I could make big savings (Karembu, 2017, para. 24).
Sibiri Antoine Nikiéma, Lado, Burkina Faso
I’m very satisfied with Bt cotton due to its many advantages, especially in terms of monetary returns. Bt cotton has improved the quality of our lives and the labour is not as tedious as before since we don’t spray that much now – from 8 sprays to just 2. My colleagues and I are relieved from harmful chemicals sprayed to Bollworm (Karembu, 2017,para. 26).
Food security terrorism
African farmers who grow GM crops report higher yields, less need for back-breaking hoeing to control weeds and fewer chemical applications. In Maria’s case, in 4 short years, GM crops have helped her to purchase 2 tractors, a house and a car, not to mention being able to pay for her sister’s education! These are huge and amazing economic and social benefits from GM crops and are clearly contributing to improved food security for these 3 farmers.
Yet, here’s a recent message from Greenpeace’s Chief Scientist, Doug Parr, on why GM crops are not an option for farmers in developing countries to improve food security, “we think GM foods are the least favourable option to address this problem”.
It should be a crime against humanity to continue to allow eNGOs to spread lies about GM crops in the face of evidence about GM crops and how they improve food security and household incomes. Sadly, the debate about GM crops isn’t about improved food security or improved quality of living for Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it’s about misleading politicians and the public to enhance their political power. The eNGO movement’s hunger for political power can now be measured in the loss of life in Africa due to malnourishment caused by food insecurity and oppressed poverty.