Friday, May 13, 2011

Imposition of Genetically Modified Organisms Will Destroy Tanzanian Economy

A study of research articles about genetically modified organisms (GMO) finds that much research is highly influenced by commercial interests. Those funded by the industry or carried out by people connected with the industry almost always have conclusions that are in favor of further commercialization. Studies without these conflicts of interest tend not to favor further commercialization.

Of course, many 'studies' and articles don't declare their interests and it is beyond the scope of most people to figure out that much of what is available is profoundly biased. But where funding sources are declared, there is unlikely to be any close connection between the authors and the GMO industry.

A common tactic when writing about GMOs is to use some kind of scare story that has been put about by a media that sees news as a form of entertainment, rather than a source of potentially vital information. One of these scare stories is about GMOs 'saving' humanity from disaster, especially where shortages of food may be involved.

Thus, an article claims that the banana is in danger of extinction in Ecuador within ten years because of a serious disease. I believe the ten year claim has already been around for about ten years and the banana is not yet extinct. But the article says genetic engineering is the only hope. Similar remarks have been made about bananas in Uganda and about other staple crops elsewhere.

There are also claims about GMO crops giving higher yields than conventionally or organically bred crops. Often, slight increases in yields are only temporary. More frequently, higher yields are not realized in real-life situations. Agricultural inputs, including the seeds, are far more expensive. And quantities of fertilizer and pesticides required have tended to creep up until the soil and the water are seriously contaminated and resistance results in GM crops ceasing to be feasible.

Monsanto and others in the industry have been trying to sneak their sub-standard and very expensive products into developing countries for a long time, with a lot of help from their well lobbied and well paid political friends. It may sound tempting when you hear about a high yield crop that does well even when there is a drought, when the soil is poor, etc. But such magic crops don't actually exist, except in the publicity material of GMO manufacturers.

Despite the industry's lack of success in producing anything that performs better than conventionally bred seeds, 'drought resistant' corn is being approved by the US Department of Agriculture. The destructive tactic of GMO manufacturers, designed to make farmers entirely dependent on the manufacturer, is also being championed by well known philanthropist, Bill Gates, who can't resist anything where intellectual property is involved.

Considerable opposition has been raised against the imposition of GMOs on Tanzanians, who have been blasted with unfounded claims about their virtues. But it remains to be seen how successful a country like Tanzania can be in resisting something that will probably be distributed free at first. This technique, said to be favored by drug pushers, may be enough to allow GMOs a foot in the door. If that happens, it is unlikely the country will be able to reverse the process.

Tanzania is not in need of a technology that costs substantially more than other alternatives. Farmers do not need more expensive inputs, especially not inputs that need to be increased every year, or ones that increase in price every year. The country does not need its land to be taken over by foreigners or its millions of small farmers to be replaced by a handful of rich landowners.

The majority of Tanzanians live in rural areas and depend directly on agriculture for their food and their income. The imposition of GMOs would wipe out the biggest source of employment and subsistence in the country. It would also destroy the country's ability to sell their products in Europe, one of their biggest markets. The only people to profit from GMOs are those connected with pushing them; everyone else loses out.


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