Africa is facing today the challenge of the introduction of GM (genetically modified) crops and GM food aid. The pressure has stepped up in recent years on African countries, and our Governments are being strongly lobbied to accept the tools of modern biotechnology to purportedly solve poverty, hunger and malnutrition. GM cotton and experimental crops such as GM sweet potato and cassava are being portrayed as important crops to tackle poverty and hunger in the continent.
The environmental network Friends of the Earth (FoE) in Africa opposes the introduction of GMOs as it will constitute a threat to African biodiversity and the continent’s food sovereignty, and will make nothing to help Africa tackling poverty and hunger. In Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Ghana, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Swaziland the local chapters of FoE are campaigning for a moratorium on the introduction of GM crops in the environment.
In 2004, FoE African groups officially created an African Regional Campaign on GMOs to better coordinate all regional activities on this issue. ERA-FoE Nigeria was elected as regional coordinator for the Campaign, as well as co-coordinator for the International GMO Programme of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI). Friends of the Earth groups in Africa are members of FoEI, the world's largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 71 diverse national member groups and some 5,000 local activist groups on every continent.

 

Raising the awareness of the African public about the impact of GMOs

FoE African groups have successfully contributed to increase the awareness about the impact of GMOs in Africa. They have organized many activities against GMOs at national levels since 2001. Solid coalitions and allies have been built in countries such as Nigeria and Togo, and significant media coverage through radio, TV, local newspapers has appeared over the last years in Africa. With the adoption of the regional campaign in 2004 networking with other groups in Africa and abroad intensified and the national campaigns got increasingly solid.

 

Food aid, hunger and GMOs

For FoE Africa to challenge the myth of GM crops as a solution to hunger and poverty, and the imposition of GM food aid is a priority campaign issue. FoEI was the first environmental group to adopt a specific GM food aid campaign at the international level in 2000. FoE African groups particularly since the Southern Africa debate in 2002 increased its activities in Africa against the imposition of GM food aid in the continent, and organized in 2004 the first international Conference on hunger, food aid and GMOs in Mozambique together with a broad coalition of partners.

FoE Nigeria and FoE affiliates, Earthlife in South Africa, cooperated with many African groups such as the African Center for Biosafety to stop the push by the World Food Programme and USAID to force Angola and Sudan to accept GM food aid against their will. After a joint letter to the WFP signed by over 60 African groups and intense media activities, both WFP and USAID stopped its open public harassment of both countries in 2004.  

Challenging the corporate spin: GM crops are not a solution to hunger

GM crops commercialized in Africa today are products from big corporations as Monsanto. Monsanto´s GM cotton in South Africa is advertised as the “miracle” crop against poverty by industry sources. Experimental crops such as GM Sweet potato in Kenya and GM cassava in Nigeria were also promoted as important crops to tackle hunger and poverty. In reaction to this publicity early in 2006 FoE Africa cooperated with the African Center for Biosafety in the launch of a report in Africa focused on Monsanto titled “Who Benefits from GM crops”. The report released simultaneously to an industry report celebrating the benefits of GM crops by an organization called ISAAA received worldwide coverage with the message that GM crops failed to deliver any benefit in the fight against hunger and poverty. Even Monsanto in South Africa had to admit that the first decade of GM crops have done little on this aspect.

FoE Nigeria and Ghana organized also in 2006 a corporate tour with Percy Schmeiser, famous for his long fight against Monsanto in Canada. The experience of farmers like Percy for the African society is a very powerful message of the consequences to Africa if the corporate model of GM crops Monsanto is promoting is adopted.

Adopting strict GMO laws

In order to prevent the import of GMOs without information or knowledge one necessary element is the establishment of strict GMO laws at the national level. FoE African groups are very active in monitoring policy and regulatory Biosafety developments in francophone and Anglophone Africa. For example FoE Togo has been the lead actor in the adoption of its law on GMOs in the country and now is acting as civil society legal adviser for other groups in Francophone Africa, which desire to build a comprehensive Biosafety regime. FoE Nigeria and Cameroon are also actively involved in the national legislation and have organized specific events together with civil servants in order to adopt comprehensive regimes. FoE Togo and FoE Nigeria link their national efforts to the international fora of the Biosafety Protocol, and have been present at all Meeting of the Parties of this UN agreement.
 



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