I welcome you all! This is a strategy session, and I would like to set the ball rolling with these introductory remarks.
First of all, please allow me the rare opportunity of saying a big thank you to such a rare and powerful panel of Pan-Africanists responding to this call. The reason why this is an urgent call is simply because the process of inundation of the continent with GMOs has already started in earnest, in a planned, and systematic manner. We have no time to wait. President Obama announced at the symposium, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, May 18, 2012:
“We’re going to sustain the commitments we made three years ago, and we’re going to speed things up. And we’re starting with these three countries — Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia — precisely because of their record in improving agriculture and food security.
But this is just the beginning. In the coming months, we’ll expand to six countries. We’ll welcome other countries that are committed to making tough reforms. We’ll welcome more companies that are willing to invest. We’re going to hold ourselves accountable; we’ll measure results. And we’ll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers’ incomes, and over the next decade, helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty. (Applause.)”
[See: Remarks by the President at Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security | The White House http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/18/remarks-president-symposium-global-agriculture-and-food-security]
[Or Listen / watch: Keynote by President Barack Obama at The Chicago Council's Symposium - YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnaZSXxg2YI]
And the funds and pledges are already in place for the first three countries. Ghana for instance is expected to get its share of the three billion dollars earmarked for the programme, a cool 600 million dollars to pollute her agriculture with genetically modified organisms. “Ghana’s share of the fund,” writes the http://www.ghana.gov.gh/, “which was announced at the G8 summit held at Camp David, Maryland at the weekend, will be a major boost to the government in the implementation of the Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP). It is expected to enhance agriculture production and alleviate over 1.3 million Ghanaians out of poverty.”
[See: Ghana Wins Funds From G8 To Promote Agriculture http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/component/content/article/96-top-headlines/13053-ghana-wins-funds-from-g8-to-promote-agriculture]
The G8 leaders, at the meeting, approved the five-year METASIP and agreed to advance their contributions. Out of the amount for Ghana, the USA is expected to provide 225 million dollars, while Canada, France and Germany will be contributing 71 million dollars, 76 million dollars and 69 million dollars respectively.
Where the GMOs come in is that their acceptance have been integrated into the country plans of the countries that sign up to the recommendations of the G8 Agricultural Development Working Group, which recommended the following actions to be undertaken by those poor African countries:
“Adopt regulatory policies that encourage consistent, science-based standards in evaluating new technologies and products, timely review, and the facilitation of trade. Policy should emphasize the following principles:
Coexistence—G8 national policies should recognize and support the acceptance of different forms of agricultural production, including organic, conventional, and biotechnology.
Synchronicity—G8 national policies should encourage the timely and simultaneous regulatory review of new technologies in agriculture to enable companies and consumers to plan accordingly.
Harmonization—The G8 should endorse the goal of establishing a global regulatory framework by 2015 that encourages consistent standards and timelines to evaluate new innovations in food production and food safety.” [See: G8 Agricultural Development Working Group Proposal: U.S. Page 13 of 19 ... http://bit.ly/LrXgoZ]
Under a regime where there is hardly any labelling, [even of seeds!?] of GM crops, it will only be a matter of time that there would no more be organic or conventional farming to worry about, since they all risk contamination by the GM crops.
This is a strategy session, and so I am not going to go into the merits and demerits of GM technology. We know the technology has excellent medical applications, such as the preparation of insulin for diabetic patients, or in other medical fields such as “treating for example, inherited diseases such as immune deficiencies, thalassemia, sickle disease, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and so on.”
Indeed, the quote on the specific medial applications is a quote from Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist, Kings College London (www.kcl.ac.uk). It is an interesting point because one way the GM industry bully the public is to accuse us of “scientific ignorance” whenever their Frankenstein foods are questioned.
In an interview on BBC’s “One Planet”, he was asked whether or not he was comfortable with the GM crops:
“The people who create GM crops use very similar techniques to yours,
different applications though, are you comfortable with that?”
“I am not comfortable at all with the way that GM is being used in agriculture”. Dr. Antoniou answer categorically, “because compared to what we do in a clinical context, where not only research is done under contained genes, they are non-replicated. They can’t reproduce and spread and cause harm. In agriculture the same technique is used in open fields, the organism can spread in an uncontrolled way and we suffer with the consequences of that forever.”
“You use this technology to device medical therapy to help people to live longer and healthier lives,” he was further asked, “to keep more of us on the planet for longer, what is wrong with other scientists using these same techniques to fed those extra millions and billions? They say – you heard the argument – that there was a need, a moral moral obligation?”,
Dr. Antoniou responded:
“Indeed, the world has a moral obligation to feed itself. What is invariably ignored by advocates of GM crops in explaining why almost a billion of people in the world go to bed, each day, hungry, is that actually, we have more than enough food to feed everybody now. In fact, we have have doubled the amount of food to feed everybody in the world now, but people don’t have access to food. And in terms of meeting future food needs, specifically in the face of climate change, then the latest United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation sponsored report clearly pointed that the future in meeting future food needs lie in applying agro-ecological methods. They said that genetic engineering would play little or no role in meeting immediate food needs of the world and future food needs of the world. Which is why the Americans were not signatory. But 62 other nations, actually signed up, including the UK, signed up to that report. We have to take on board, the report compiled by 400 independent scientists from around the world, in all manner of expertise and discipline, which said go forward with low-input, agro-ecological, sustainable agriculture, not GM, because GM simply does not fit the bill.”
That is all I have to say about the pros and cons. If we worked hard enough, we should be able to see the results on Wall Street. Currently, analysts predict a rise of 11.4% in revenue from the year-earlier quarter to $4 billion. [See:Monsanto Third Quarter Earnings Sneak Peek | Wall St. Cheat Sheet http://wallstcheatsheet.com/stocks/monsanto-third-quarter-earnings-sneak-peek.html/]. For a fairly comprehensive insight into the science and politics of this whole GM debate, I strongly recommend The GMO Threat [Full Length - HD] – YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVvtP7Ubgxo&feature=share
So what do we do?
I see four major theatres of struggle currently being waged by a tiny minority of concerned and under-funded individuals and organisations confronting a blitz of publicity and gimmicks aimed at the manufacturing of consent and the imposition of GM foods into their food chain.
The most crucial of all these struggles is in California. California is currently the eye of the storm because of the November 2012 vote on the labelling of GM Foods. The following two stories may help provide a background to that:
The vast majority of Americans want genetically modified food labelled. If California passes November’s ballot, they could get it
“…What makes the referendum in California different is that, for the first time, voters and not politicians
will be the ones to decide. And this has the food industry worried. Understandably so, since only one in four Americans is convinced that GMOs are “basically safe”, according to a survey conducted by the Mellman Group, and a big majority wants food containing GMOs to be labeled…”
“…Given their unpopularity with consumers, labeling “Frankenfoods” would undoubtedly hurt sales, possibly even forcing supermarkets to take them off their shelves. In one survey, just over half of those polled said they would not buy food that they knew to be genetically modified.
This makes the financial stakes for November’s referendum vote huge. California is not just America’s leading agricultural state, but the most populous state in the nation. If companies are made to change their labels in California, they may well do so all over the country, rather than maintain a costly two-tier packaging and distribution system…”
See: How California’s GM food referendum may change what America eats | Richard Schiffman | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
Very little wonder that:
Big Food companies like ConAgra, Smucker, Hormel, Kellogg, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo want to block Proposition 37
By Ronnie Cummins / AlterNet
[The California Ballot Initiative to label genetically engineered food is] “a serious, long-term threat to the viability of agricultural biotechnology. Defeating the Initiative is GMA’s single highest priority this year.” – Pamela Bailey, President of Grocery Manufacturers Association, speech to the American Soybean Association, July 9, 2012
This November, Californians will vote for or against Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. The outcome of that vote will likely determine whether the U.S. will one day join the nearly 50 other countries that allow their citizens to choose between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered food through the enactment of laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The election is three months away, but the battle lines were drawn months ago. Lining up against the consumer’s right to know — and throwing plenty of money into the fight — is a long list of industry front groups, food conglomerates and biotech companies. Near the top of that list is the powerful Washington, DC-based Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), a multi-billion-dollar trade association. The GMA represents America’s $1.2 trillion “Big Food” industry, led by supermarket chains, Monsanto and other biotech companies, animal drug companies, multinational food manufacturers, and junk food restaurants — all of whom rely on the use of dangerous chemicals, pesticides, animal drugs, and GMOs to produce cheap, contaminated food…. Read more: http://sandiegofreepress.org/2012/08/why-a-major-food-organization-is-teaming-up-with-monsanto-and-friends-to-block-your-right-to-know-whats-in-your-food/
The remaining three countries are in Africa: Ghana, Ethiopia, and Tanzania in terms of the urgency of NOW, but there are thirty or 23 depending of which conflicting source you choose, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia, that have been listed as having “country investment plans” in Agriculture.
The bulk of our work will be to work with civil societies in these countries to challenge the manufacturing of the African consent to GMOs. Please, see also: URGENT: ATTENTION AFRICA! Is Africa being sold to Monsanto for free? http://on.fb.me/LsQNZN
I am sure this has been already a bit too long, and I have no intention of making it any longer, even though I believe it has been worth my while to labour on it, and trust that they are going straight into good hands. I am sure we shall have the time to discuss supplementary issues later on.
On behalf of our little initiative without a name yet, except Let’s organize! Is Africa being sold to Monsanto for free? I thank you all for your precious time and kind attention.
For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!
Social Media Outreach
Pan-Africanist International – a grammar of Pan-Africanism and its manners of articulation!