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HUNGER, FOOD AID AND GMOs – ANY POSSIBLE LINKS? A paper presented at the International Conference on HUNGER, FOOD AID AND GMOs in Maputo, Mozambique (July 14 – 18, 2004). Paper by: Zachary Makanya Country Desk Coordinator, PELUM-Kenya. 1. THE WORLD FOOD CRISIS: There are 6 billion people to feed and 8 billion in 2020. While food production is on the increase, it is less than the population increase. There is looming world food crisis. There is a need to increase crop yield Some parts of Africa are permanently on relief due to adverse weather (droughts, famine, flooding, etc), and man-made situations (conflicts etc). THE LIMITED OPTIONS LEFT: Open more land for agriculture: Loss of biodiversity Does not guarantee success because of the changing weather partners. Increase crop yield by intensifying productivity through new technologies and alternative systems Promote and strengthen the present systems of food production and storage. 2. IS THERE REALLY SHORTAGE OF FOOD IN THE WORLD? 2.1. The world is not short of food but the main problem is Lack of access to food (due to low purchasing power – a direct result of poverty), Poor and inequitable trading policies – meant to favor the western systems. “If the food that is currently available were to be evenly distributed among the 6.4 billion people on earth (providing each individual with a minimum intake of 2,500 calories), there would still be a surplus left for 800 million. The problem is therefore not production but clearly of access and distribution” “In the North, excess calories are expended in gymnasiums and in jogging. Still, most people in the North suffer from diseases that are related to overfeeding. In contrast, most people in the South suffer from diseases related to malnutrition” “Why can’t the pastoralists in the North Kenya purchase the food found in abundance and cheaply in the neighboring Rift Valley province?” “Why are farmers from countries that produce abundance food e.g. Ugandan still very poor? Why think of introducing GMO crops to countries already producing so much with nowhere to take its food?” “Why do Africa Governments export maize even when some of their communities are perpetually receiving relief food?” “Why do they import sugar when sugarcane is rotting in their countries and many of the operational sugar factories are non-functioning?” 3. IS INCREASE IN FOOD PRODUCTION REALLY THE ANSWER TO THE AFRICA’S HUNGER ? In 2001, Argentina produced enough food (wheat) enough to feed India and China. Yet, it people are among the most hungry in the world. Brazil is the third Producer of food in the world – yet most of the children are dying of malnutrition. 4. THE REAL BENEFICIARIES OF RELIEF FOOD! The procedure for purchasing relief food The donating GOK provides funds to World Food Programme (WFP) for the purchase of relief food. It gives conditions on the use of the funds. The food must be purchased from their farmers The food must be shipped by the ships. The WFP fulfills buys the food from the donating country farmers and meet all the conditions. Over 75 % of the food produced in North America is GE Crops. All GE crops are patented and the GE companies get lots of money in sale of GE seeds. THE RESULT “As a result, the cost of Relief Food / kg is among the highest in the world”: Actual cost of food from farmers Add the transport it from country of origin its outlet port. Add the shipping costs it. Handling charges at the ports (outlet and entry). Transporting / distributions costs. Add the indirect costs (personnel costs). “If the idea is to really give relief food to hunger victims, why cannot the donating countries give funds to WFP so as to purchase food from neighboring countries instead of buying their countries?” 5. THE MAIN PROBLEMS WITH FOOD AID It destroys the local markets through “food dumping” It is against the rules of free trade. It creates dependence Relief development is justified in that it saves lives. However, Relief Development should only be done when it is absolutely necessary and only for a short time. If it is done for a longer time, it may lead to dependency and the beneficiaries of relief food may soon forget about their life chores and continue waiting for hand-outs from tables of their benefactors. “A story is told of a village that had receive food aid from Canada for 12 years. At one time, there was drought in the area the village. To the bafflement of NGO (through which the relief food was being channeled through), the affected villagers did not look perturbed, alarmed or worried. When they asked the reason, no body was willing to tell them. The puzzle continued until one friendly old farmer let the cat out of the bag. He confided to one of the NGO staff member. At first, the farmer looked mischievously at the Project Officer and asked him, “Yes, it is true it not raining here but is it raining in Canada?” When the answer was in the positive, the farmers beamed at the officer and whispered “That is why we are not worried!”. This farmer meant that they would only be worried if there was no rain in Canada since this may stop the supply of food aid which they had continued to receive for four years. This community had received relief food for such a long time that they forgot the importance of producing their own food” 6. THE 10 MAIN PROBLEMS WITH GE CROPS 6.1 The GE Crops can never ever co-exist without contaminating the Non GE-crops. “Pollen grains can be spread a long distance through open pollination (wind / insects) and hence GM crops can easily “contaminate” the neighboring non-GM crops” 6.2. The Overdependence on corporate on seed supply. Over 80% of the small scale farmers in Africa today save their seeds for the next season. This is so because the farmers do not have enough income to buy seeds for every planting. Seed sharing (with neighbours, relatives and friends) is also cultural in many communities. Through the GE seeds, the small-scale farmers will loose their right to save or share seeds with neighbours and friends and relatives. 6.3 The non-licensed users of GE seeds (either by accident or default) are liable for prosecution. Farmers in other countries have been taken to courts after the patent GE crops are found growing on their field, even when such crops come as a result of open pollination (insect or wind-pollination). How many African farmers will go to jail for not being able to pay the patent violation fine in future? How many will lose their small farms through auctioning? 6.4. Genetic Engineering crops favour the agriculture systems which are characterised by: Large farms and Monocroping Subsidies by Governments Mechanisation External inputs 6.5 Genetic Engineering crops favour the agriculture systems which are characterised by: Large farms and Monocroping Subsidies by Governments Mechanisation External inputs 6.6. GE application hinges on strict application of the Cartegena Protocol. Many African nations do not have capacity to implement this protocol. This is in terms of Expertise Equipment Infrastructure Legislation and Regulatory systems Can the African Governments who have perpetual ailing economies have the capacity to effectively the capacity to implement the Cartegena Protocol? 6.7 They threaten to the environment After continuous use of herbicides tolerant and pesticides, pest and harmful insects may develop resistance. There could be many knock-on effects: Larger quantities of the pesticides used Development of more new pesticides Emergence of super weeds / super pests / super viruses which may not be easily controlled. 6.8 The Threat to Human Health Little is known of the real threats posed by GE crops on human health. Many fear that continuous uptake could lead to emergence of new viral strains which may be hard to control. More toxins in the body More allergic reactions Emergence of the new viral strains which may hard to control / manage. 6.9 The Threat to organic farmers and sustainable Agriculture 6.10 Intellectual property rights are inadequate and inappropriate for the protection of traditional knowledge and community resources. 7. THE POSSIBLE LINKS BETWEEN FOOD AID AND THE GMOS An outlet to the produce of farmers from the donating countries Food aid is not just only eaten: “When the rains come, any farmer without seed will plant anything”. Hence, the idea is to contaminate seeds with GE crops such that at the end of the day, we have no GM free food. The corporate control on world food production systems. If the intentions of the producers of GE are only out to increase food production, why have the dreaded terminator technology and traitor technology been developed? The Terminator Technology has been developed such that GE crops developed though it, produce sterile seeds that can not germinate in the next season The “Traitor” technology has been developed such that crops require application of certain chemicals to trigger (switch on or turn off) certain traits (e.g. flowering, germination, fruit ripening, etc). The “Traitor Technologies” promises rich rewards for corporations because the GE crops only respond to agro-chemicals purposely manufactured for the purpose. NB: The two are processes of the GE Technologies called Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs). 8. THE SUGGESTED WAY FORWARD 8.1 We need to apply the principle of precautionary principle “Not to proceed when there is no certainty for safety of human health and the environment”. 8.2 There is great need to carry out a risk assessment on the potential dangers and effects posed by the introduction of GE crops. 8.3 There is a great need to create awareness on the issues around the GMO crops. The farmers will say yes or No to the GMOs from a point of knowledge. 8.4 Partners and governments of Africa and the world should address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity: Make trade fair and improve the marketing systems. Improve the rural Infrastructure Avail credit to farmers Promote Irrigation systems Intensify rural training services. Promote the development of the range lands of the world. 8.5 There should be a moratorium on commercialization of GMOs in every African Country until more research has been carried out into socio-economic, environmental, agronomic. 8.6 Farmers rights to save or share seeds should be recognized and protected. 8.7 AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS SHOULD INVEST IN RESEARCH. The budgets for research in developing countries is a meager percentage of the national gross budget. Research should address farmer identified problems. 9. FOUR PARTING SHOTS: “OUTSIDERS MAY HELP BUT THE INSIDERS MUST DO THE JOB” WE NEED TO ADVOCATE FOR LOCAL SOLUTIONS FOR LOCAL PROBLEMS USING LOCAL RESOURCES. “HEED THE CALL OF THE BIG NOISE CAMPAIGN - MAKE TRADE FAIR” “THE BEST WAY TO BRING ABOUT SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IS TO STRENGTHEN THE EXISTING LOCAL SYSTEMS AND NOT TO DESTROY THEM”.