From Kenya’s Daily Nation comes the headline:
Farmers planting maize that poses threat to humans
Farmers in one of Kenya’s largest grain-producing areas have been cultivating genetically modified maize that is potentially harmful to human health without knowing it.
The Sunday Nation can exclusively report that the relevant seeds are sourced from a South African company that is a subsidiary of Dupont, a leading US-based biotechnology firm.
This was revealed to the Sunday Nation by officials of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (KBioC), a body that brings together 45 farmer groups, NGOs and civil society bodies.
. . .
After tests, it was conclusively established that the sample was contaminated with traces of MON810, a genetically modified maize variety owned and marketed by Monsanto, an American biotechnology company.
. . .
The revelation confirms long-running suspicions among many Kenyan farmers that they could have been cultivating genetically modified varieties of maize without being aware of it.
“Initially, we were given the suspect seeds as donations by politicians and we planted them. But when we harvested, the maize started rotting almost immediately,” said Isabel Wandati, a farmer and official of a women’s group in Butere.
She laments that she finds it impossible to replant the same maize and blames the Kenya Bureau of Standards for not properly inspecting the relevant maize variety.
She adds that instead of arming farmers in Butere with the relevant information on the variety, the local agricultural extension officials have been championing its cultivation.
There is now a danger that the country’s entire maize crop could be contaminated with traces of MON810. This is because maize is a cross-pollinated crop and pollen that bears traces of MON810 might be transported by wind from contaminated farms into uncontaminated ones.
The variety is patented by Monsanto and is banned in several European countries because of its negative impact on the environment and its harmful consequences on such useful insects, such as butterflies and bees.
Research conducted in some European countries had shown that feeding mice on the variety damaged their kidneys and livers.
However, its effects on humans is yet to be fully studied since maize is generally not used as human food in Europe and America. It is instead fed to horses and other domestic animals.
Once the country’s maize crop is contaminated with genetically modified varieties, Kenya risks losing traditional hybrid varieties that were painstakingly developed by KARI at the taxpayer’s expense.
Genetically modified grains are injected with bacteria that produce poison to kill nuisance pests and resist adverse weather conditions.
However, these poisonous bacteria have the downside of potentially destroying the soil by killing helpful bacteria and insects. Also, they compromise food safety and might prove to be harmful to humans over time once the grains are consumed.
From gmofree-europe.org come these findings:
Since approving the MON810 in 1998 there have been a host of studies that have shown alarming results
- A study by Swiss researchers found fewer flying insects in Bt maize fields. Flying insects are important food sources for insect-eating birds and bats.2
- A study published in 2003 found that earthworms feeding on Bt maize litter showed a weight loss compared to a weight gain in earthworms feeding on nonGM maize. Earthworms are extremely important for nutrient cycling in soils.3
- A study in Switzerland found that the Bt toxin could still be detected in soil the following year after the Bt maize was harvested.4
In fairness to Monsanto, I don’t think it is only African agriculture they wish to colonize and control. I think it is the whole world. But the complicity of governments promoting the use of these seeds needs to be checked. Kenya’s entire maize crop is at risk, and may already be contaminated. The farmer’s words are most worrisome “Initially, we were given the suspect seeds as donations by politicians and we planted them. But when we harvested, the maize started rotting almost immediately” and that: She laments that she finds it impossible to replant the same maize. This sounds like they may be using terminator seeds. The plants are genetically engineered so that the seeds are sterile, forcing the farmers to buy new seed each year, rather than save and plant seeds from the previous crop. Populations are exposed to famine just because they may not have money to buy new seeds. Lives are dependent on the seed vendor. The vendor, or government sponsor, can trap the farmers in a cycle of debt, pricing seeds so that the farmers are forced to borrow each year in order to plant, and never escape debt.
GM, genetically modified, seeds can cross pollinate and contaminate non GM crops. Supposedly to prevent this, Monsanto has developed seeds that are sterile. Unfortunately they can still cross pollinate. The resulting seeds can’t grow, which is an additional contamination. The seeds that have been genetically modified not to grow are called terminator seeds.
In the past I have been skeptical of the people crying about GM foods. I have wondered if some of the fear was more superstition than science. The more I read, the more I realize there are serious reasons to be wary and skeptical of GM food. Even contained experiments have cross polinated outside of their contained zones. The west needs to do its research and experimentation at home. And it needs to provide some conclusive evidence of safety IF the seeds are safe.
One friend says that “I’m sorry” is the white man’s national anthem. He cuts off your brother’s head and then says “Oh, I’m sorry”, and you are supposed to take it.
It looks like the US is trying to colonize Africa militarily with AFRICOM, and colonize it agriculturally as well, with GM seeds and biofuel plantations. While this is not necessarily about race, there is a racial component. “I’m sorry” later on will not compensate for the suffering and destruction caused by these hugely mistaken approaches to the continent.
As another friend of mine used to say: Don’t be sorry, be careful.