How South African resource-poor farmers use biotech crops to improve

CONTRARY TO ARGUMENTS by GM deniers, smallholder farmers – who make important contributions to food production in South Africa – are increasingly turning to growing of GM crops, especially maize and cotton, to boost yields and incomes. Below are farmers impact stories in their own words.

Mrs Sophie Mabhena: Br Maize has improved my yields and reduced my workload

Sophie in her Bt Maize farm in Pretoria

Sophie in her Bt Maize farm in Pretoria

Just over 40km, north of Pretoria in an area known as Masopane is Onverwaght Farm, situated on a slope that overlooks open vast carpets of green maize fields.  Here 35-year old Sophie Mabhena is living her farming dream. Mabhena grew up on this farm whose produce paid for her schooling and the upkeep of her family.  As a maize farmer, pest and weed control are key if Mabhena is to get better maize yields enabling her to fetch more money when she sells her maize to the millers down the road.  Mabhena grows stacked maize which has insect resistance and herbicide tolerance (Bt-HT maize). This means the seed is resistance to pests such as the maize stalk borer and can withstand chemicals used to control weeds.

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Award Winning Journalist tells off Nigerian anti-GMO activists

‘People are always entitled to their OPINIONS but not their FACTS’

SPOT ON: Mark Lynas shares his experiences with audiences in Tanzania

SPOT ON: Mark Lynas shares his experiences with audiences in Tanzania

OVER TIME, THERE HAVE BEEN repeated tales by many people (especially from the non-scientific class) that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are dangerous for human consumption; that they have resulted in sicknesses and subsequent death of a number of people across countries.

One such campaign of misinformation has been launched, this time by an Architect, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour on Monday, 19 May 2014 at http://tinyurl.com/psnnyjjRhodes-Vivour, as an architect, should know more about building designs than scientific issues that are related to laboratory researches. He is hardly an authority in any scientific field, including biology, chemistry or agriculture. He is not known to have carried out any research or collaborated with any scientist to arrived on a result that GMOs are harmful to humans.

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In Africa, are products risky even if they don’t exist?

RECENTLY we had a trip to Uganda where we held very inspiring conversations with members of parliament on the need for them to pass the biosafety bill into law. The meeting organized by the minister for Finance in charge of Planning Hon Matia Kaisaija went quite well. We were encouraged by the fact tha

AATF and AfricaBio Meeting with Uganda VP, Deputy Speaker, Minster for Planning, MPs

AATF and AfricaBio Officials Meeting with Uganda VP, Deputy Speaker, Minster for Planning, MPs in Parlaiment, Kampala, Uganda

t most MPs are convinced that the country needs biosafety law to govern modern biotech activities in the country. Even so, it was not lost on us that more of such engagement and similar conversations are needed to help disabusing some MPs of the myths they hold against GMOs if the country is to get a facilitative biosafety law. From the discussions, it was evident that most MPs have been visited severally by biotech deniers to instill fear in them about GMOs. In deed while at parliament buildings waiting to meet with the MPs, we came across some young man who was busy writing the names of each legislators on leaflets whose contents were laden with fear-mongering propaganda against biotech crops.

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GM scaremongering in Africa is disarming the fight against poverty

Biotechnology offers an opportunity to boost the security of staple crops in sub-Saharan Africa. We ignore this at our peril

Cassava dries in the sun in Uganda. Considerable resources have been invested in developing GM varieties of staple crops in Africa. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

Cassava dries in the sun in Uganda. Considerable resources have been invested in developing GM varieties of staple crops in Africa. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

Transforming agriculture is central to sub-Saharan Africa‘s development prospects. Three-quarters of people in extreme poverty – existing on less than $1.25 a day – live in rural areas, and crop yields across the region are often a fraction of those in developed countries.

Increasing productivity could help close that gap and increase farm incomes and food availability, in turn reducing hunger and poverty. But the transformation must go beyond raising farm productivity – it must also build resilience to climate change, which, in the absence of significant investment and adaptation, threatens to devastate African crop yields.

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Adoption of new agricultural technologies in SSA critical to improved outputs

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA (SSA) WITH A POPULATION OF 884 MILLION people remains the most food-insecure region as 29% of its population is estimated to be food insecure in 2014, according to the International Food Security Assessment, 2014-2024.

Over the period under prediction, SSA’s food security situation is expected to deep even further by 34% as the share of population that is food insecure is projected to reach 346 million in 2024. The greatest deterioration of food security is projected to occur in Uganda. A major factor driving this is the high population growth rate at 3.2%, which is expected to remain high over the next decade. Another factor is the low production of root and tuber crops, which account for about half of the country’s diet.

Policy makers from Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania tour biotech facilities in RSA

Policy makers from Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania tour biotech facilities in RSA

However, a larger than expected increase in crop area devoted to new crop varieties could alter this outcome, says the report. What is more, like many other SSA countries, Uganda’s food security is highly sensitive to domestic production performance. Thus, the need to increase adoption of innovative crop varieties in SSA to stem food insecurity uptick cannot be gainsaid.

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Burkina reaps over US$1 Billion from Bt cotton as Kenya drags its feet

Dr Oumar Traore, INERA Director of Crops Research

Dr Oumar Traore, INERA Director of Crops Research

Prior to adopting and commercializing Bt Cotton, Burkina Faso’s cotton production had fallen sharply.

According to INERA (the countries lead agricultural research body) in 2007 cotton production had gone down by almost 50% or just about half.This prompted the country to speed up the process of commercializing biotech cotton, which had been in trials since 2003. The commercialization of Bt cotton in 2008 brought the much-needed relief to the farmers who had started deserting cotton farming due to high cost of production as a result of insect pests pressure that required over six sprays to contain.

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Hillary Clinton endorses GMOs, solution-focused crop biotech

Hi lary ClintonFormer U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her support for genetically modified crops and crop biotechnology. In a 65-minute keynote appearance at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in San Diego in late June, Clinton conversed with Jim Greenwood, BIO president, on a wide range of topics including GMOs.

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Communicate more with public over GMOs to reduce stigma-US House Committee tells industry

 

By Sarah Gonzalez

Prof  Calestous Juma of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said political leadership is hesitant to make changes in support of biotechnology, which is “something they think their voters might not support.”

The heated public debate over genetically modified foods shows the agricultural industry is not doing enough to communicate biotechnology’s benefits to society, according to a group of witnesses hosted by the House Agriculture Subcommittee Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture on Wednesday.

“Today’s hearing made it very clear that we still have a lot of work to do to communicate with the public about the benefits of biotech,” said Ranking Member Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon.

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New Association is for sharing experiences on biotech, says Moll

According to Nathalie Moll, Secretary General, EuropaBio, the International Council of Biotech Associations is a network of biotech industry associations encompassing all national biotech associations in Europe as well as most of the other existing biotech associations around the world. It is not an association per se and members do not pay membership fees but rather agree on an individual basis on a range of topics on which they will work together to improve the general environment for biotech business globally. In addition, “an important element of this group of associations has been historically and will continue to be, the sharing of experiences, best practices and information about developments related to our industry around the world”, she says.

Most recent topics of discussion and potential joint actions include IP, trade negotiations, antimicrobial resistance, international standards on biotech currently being developed, incentives to biotech enterprises including tax regimes, GM labelling rules, Low Level Presence of GM material in traded commodities, as well as sharing best practices regarding bioeconomy strategies in various countries and regions.

 

 

 

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New Council of International Biotech Associations Formed


 Group’s Membership Represents Six Continents

New Forum for biotechAn international confederation of biotechnology trade associations announced today the ratification of bylaws creating the International Council of Biotechnology Associations (ICBA), with the expressed purpose of advocating for public policies that support the growth of the innovative biotechnology industry worldwide.

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