GM crops can benefit organic farmers too

WEMA drought tolerant maize farmer in her demonstration farm, Eastern Kenya,

WEMA drought tolerant maize farmer in her demonstration farm, Eastern Kenya.

In this opinion piece, Ian Godwin, a professor in plant molecular genetics at the University of Queensland, Australia, writes that the adoption of genetically modified (GM)
technology has reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22
percent, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent. The yield and profit gains
in developing countries, he adds, are considerably higher than in developed
countries. Organic farmers, he continues, care for their land and want to
balance their impact on the land. But organic farms use more land and labor to
produce the same yield as conventional agriculture. Perhaps, Godwin suggests,
the organic industry should take another look at GM crops, as they have the
potential to improve yield and resistance, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have GM crop plants with enhanced nutritional qualities, pest and disease
resistance, larger grain sizes and the ability to produce more food with lower
fertiliser inputs. Many of these plants have been modified with only a few DNA
letters altered from the ‘wild’ genes,” he writes. “Adoption would massively
improve the productivity of organic agriculture, and the productivity boost
would help make organic food price competitive. So let’s talk about GM
organics.”

Have you eaten organic food today? If you have eaten anything, then technically you’ve eaten organic. By definition, all food is organic; it just may not have been grown under industry standards, such as Australian Certified Organic (ACO).

Most people who choose to eat certified organic do so because they believe it is cleaner and greener, or chemical free. But the most modern cultivated plants are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and so are precluded from being certified organic.

The Australian Organic organisation says that’s because there are no long-term studies on human health. Prince Charles has warned that the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops is the biggest environmental disaster of all time.

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Little implementation of High-level African panel of experts recommendations on biotech

prof. Juma with the report: Is AU really doing anything about this report?

prof. Juma with the report: Is AU really doing anything about this report?

In August 2007, the high-level African biotechnology experts lead by Prof Calestous Juma and Ismail Serageldin produced a very powerful report and submitted it to the appointing Authority, AU/NEPAD.

Almost a decade later, it is appropriate to ask:

  • What became of this report?
  • What is NEPAD doing about it?

The following were the key recommendations:

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NEPAD should push for smart agric techs in fight against Climate change effects

Climate change will have serious and adverse consequences for many development sectors in Africa, and threatens the economies and livelihoods of many African countries, noted NEPADS agency leaders at a side event they organized during COP21.

NEPAD Director of Programme Implementation and Coordination, Mrs Estherine Fotabong-Lisinge

NEPAD Director of Programme Implementation and Coordination, Mrs Estherine Fotabong-Lisinge

This admission is good for one can only solve a problem he recognizes and accepts. The only worry is the reluctance to effect rapid defensive action to neutralize the threat.

Mohamed Abdel-Monem, Special Adviser to the AMCEN (African Ministerial Conference on the Environment) President, couldn’t be more right. Obviously there is urgent need to multiply efforts on combatting climate change as African economies depend heavily on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture.

But he fell short of offering practical solutions to the problem. We all agree that keeping global warming below 2°C and minimizing the negative impact of climate change requires more than talk and more talks.

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OFAB opts for high-impact grassroots outreach approach to advocacy

Consensus is emerging among biotech stakeholders in Africa that three things must happen to spike the graph of biotech crops adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Of the three, the first is increased demand for biotech crops by grassroots communities, followed by a strong commitment by high-level policy makers to evidence-based biotech policy decisions. And the third is the need for a global coalition of pro-biotech advocacy and communication groups for a coordinated approach to biotech issues management.  It is a renaissance of sorts, reminiscent of the revolutions in the 50s and 60s that shaped modern theories of development communication.

Dr. Mnenei of OFAB Tanzania , accompanied by  journalists, talks to local farmers about challenges facing their crops in Mtwara, Tanzania.
Dr. Mnenei of OFAB Tanzania , accompanied by journalists, talks to local farmers about challenges facing their crops in Mtwara, Tanzania.

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European industry demands respect to evidence in policy making

Leading EU agriculture and food industries today repeated their call for innovation to be considered at every stage of the legislative process.  The 7th European Innovation Summit confirmed support for the ‘innovation principle’ to contribute to a sensible and science-based approach to policy making that can guarantee the long-term competitiveness of the EU agricultural sector.

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German scientists take the bull by the horn, lobby for GM labeling

 
 When it comes to labeling genetically modified (GM) food, the battle lines are usually clear: Those who oppose genetic engineering want it labeled, and those who support it see no need. But today, a group of German scientists and other proponents of GM organisms launched a campaign to require labeling of anything that contains or has been produced with the help of GM organisms.

Their unusual plea is a political gamble; rather than making it more difficult for GM products to reach consumers, they hope the new law will show Germans just how widespread such products already are—whether it’s in food, clothes, drugs, or washing powder—and that there is nothing to be afraid of.

The petition to the German parliament, which will go online tomorrow, asks the German government to prepare a law that requires GM labeling for all food, feed, drugs, textiles, chemicals, and other products that have been produced using genetic engineering. The petition also calls on the government to advocate a similar law at the E.U. level.

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Why Britain is going its own way on GMOs

Britain is set to plant genetically modified crops on British soil in the next few years—perhaps to the dismay of its neighbors in staunchly anti-GMO nations France, Germany and Hungary.

The European Union compromise signed on January 14, 2015, and going into effect this spring, gives countries the right to choose to grow GMOs that have been approved by the European Food Safety Authority. Previously, because of a weighted voting system, many GM crops were doomed for rejection.

For almost the last two decades, opposition to genetically modified foods in Europe has had a firm hold, and genetically modified foods have been the scapegoat for criticisms about industrialized agriculture, globalization and deterioration of local economies, said French researcher Sylvie Bonny.

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Senator Kiraitu Murungi demands immediate lifting of GMO import ban

 

Senator Kiraitu and Dr Wambugu during Official launch of her biotech book in Naiorbi

Senator Kiraitu and Dr Florence Wambugu during Official launch of her biotech book in Nairobi

The chairman of Kenya’s Senate Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Hon Kiraitu Murungi, yesterday criticized the Kenya government for treating agriculture so casually yet it was the most important economic sector. The Senator who was launching a book on agricultural biotechnology whose lead author is renowned biotech advocate and CEO of Africa Harvest, Dr Florence Wambugu , said the national and country governments should increase agriculture budget to 20% from the current 2 %.  He argues this is the only way to develop Kenya equally and equitably. He said irrigation projects under the so-called 1 Million acre program will take too long to have any impact given that only 10,000 acres are irrigated per year.

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EU member countries must stand up to biotech deniers, be on the side of science

Climate resilient, insect-protected, herbicide tolerant and high-yielding technologies will not only lesson farmers' burden but also uplift their livelihoods

Climate resilient, insect-protected, herbicide tolerant and high-yielding technologies will not only lesson farmers’ burden but also uplift their livelihoods

This week, environmentalists, who have long pitched tents in Brussels to frustrate efforts to get EU member states to make decisions on GMOs based on scientific evidence, are jumping in glee. They are happy at the prospects of succeeding to arm-twist parliament to vote in favor of giving member-states freedom to allow or not to allow growing of GMOs. They are using the age-old divide and rule tactic. It is appalling. Having failed to get blanket ban of GM crops in EU, the so-called environmentalists in Europe are now seeking easy ways of isolating countries in Europe so that they can intimidate them against allowing farmers to grow the innovative crops. One fails to understand how right-thinking members of parliament can allow themselves to be intimidated by such groups that have lost all genuine arguments against GM crops.

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EU head of delegation in Kenya says yes to GMOs

OFAB Kenya leads high-powered delegation to EU offices in Nairobi over the Ambassodor Briet's negative comments about GMOs. Delegation included MPs, Scientists, regulators, industry and policy makers

OFAB Kenya leads high-powered delegation to EU offices in Nairobi over the Ambassador Briet’s negative comments about GMOs. Delegation included MPs, Scientists, regulators, industry and policy makers

The head of the European Union delegation in Kenya, Ambassador Lodewjik Briet, has rescinded his earlier statement that Kenyan farmers will find it difficult to find market in the EU if the country adopts genetically modified crops.

In a statement read on his behalf by the Head of Rural Development and Agriculture at the EU regional office in Nairobi, Dominique Davoux, Ambassador Briet.  He said that the EU has no problem importing products from countries growing GM crops so long us they meet the set guidelines.“The position of EU is that we have a list of GMO products that can be imported into the EU space. If Kenya contributes there, it will have access to the market,” he said. Mr. Briet clarified that the EU has authorized the importation of 58 genetically modified crops including GM maize, soya, oilseed rape, sugar beet and cotton.The EU head in Kenya said this at meeting and press conference held in Nairobi on the 7th of November 2014 to update the biotechnology stakeholders on the pace at which the country is progressing in biotech R&D and the impact the current ban on GM foods has on biotechnology investments in the country.

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