Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji
Coinciding agenda of seed and biotech industry to enter African markets via GM African cowpea as Ghana seeks injunction on crop.
The development of genetically modified (GM) Bt cowpea for the lucrative African market is a threat to food sovereignty in the region, says a report from African Centre of Biodiversity (ACB) . The report accuses the industry of targeting a crop that has clearly defined social, economic, nutritional and agro-ecological niches in the four countries set to grow it– Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Malawi, prompting a court injunction in Ghana to halt its commercial release . ACB’s report, entitled ‘GM and seed industry eye Africa’s lucrative cowpea seed markets: The political economy of cowpea in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi’, documents the converging agenda of both the seed market as well as the GM industry to profit from growing demand for the crop.
The project was spearheaded by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), an influential pro-GM organisation and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. The GM cowpea was modified to carry an insecticidal Cry1Ab gene that encodes a Bt toxin, developed by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), with Monsanto donating the Cry1Ab and nptII (neomycin antibiotic resistance) genes now that its patent has expired. Field trials were performed in Nigeria and Burkina Faso from 2014 and Ghana from 2012. It is clear from the list of organisations involved that far from being a locally owned project by those who understand the complexities involved, the GM cowpea has been developed by multinational seed and biotech industry set to divert profits away from farmers into their own coffers. As the report states: “An equitable and sustainable solution to seed production and distribution can only come from direct engagement with farmers and their organisations to ensure their active involvement in these activities”. Read the rest of this entry »