Tanzania orders destruction of Monsanto/Gates’ GM trials due to illegal use for pro-GM propaganda = Big Business steamrollering its message to citizens to change hearts and minds
Tanzanian civil society organisations (CSOs) welcome the decision of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mathew Mtigumwe, to bring an immediate stop to all ongoing GM field trials taking place in the country. These are under the auspices of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project which includes Monsanto, the Gates Foundation and national research centres. This decision has since been verified by the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Japheth Hasunga in latest media reports.
Unauthorised access to trial sites indicates collusion between biotech lobbyists and GM researchers paid by the Gates Foundation and others. Mark Lynas’s unethical social media hype uses Tanzania’s smallholder farmers in an instrumentalist way as a means to justify the introduction of GMO crops in the country, claiming that Tanzanians are poor and hungry. The statements of the pro-GM scientists have not yet been corroborated by the Ministry of Agriculture or related institutions such as the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI).
The biotech machinery both in Tanzania and elsewhere has supported a well-funded media campaign to spread pro GM propaganda and to push for the adoption of GM maize in the country, despite the questionable benefits for smallholder farmers. They have consistently made unsubstantiated claims about the GM varieties, including superior drought tolerance and resistance to fall army worm. In a media report ‘New push in pipeline for acceptance of GMO seed’, GMO trials were hailed as a “success” with the Director General of TARI claiming that ‘GMO seeds are a solution to the longstanding problems of pest invasions in farms across Tanzania’. These unsubstantiated claims were made on the effectiveness of the insect-resistant Bt trait -MON 810 - that was ‘donated’ to WEMA countries even though it has been phased out in South Africa due to massive and widespread insect resistance.
That the claims are unsubstantiated was confirmed by the recent decision of South African biosafety authorities to reject Monsanto’s application for commercial release of its triple stacked GM drought-tolerant maize, MON 87460 x MON 89034 x NK 603. The decision was made on the grounds that the field trial data insufficiently demonstrated the claimed drought and insect resistant efficacy of the GM event. MON 87460 is currently being field trialled in Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique where the WEMA project is also active. The decision to stop the trials is another blow to the WEMA project following so soon after the South African decision.
Organisations have condemned threats by local scientists, who are paid by WEMA, to push for further revisions of the country’s biosafety regulations.
The essence of the message here is really that unsubstantiated claims are being made and there is collusion and unethical social media hype being created to misrepresent the findings to citizens. Leaving the merits, or demerits, of GM aside this represents strongly with the tobacco and big oil lobby groups have been doing over the decades. The issue is not so much the 'what' but rather the 'how'. And of course Monsanto's name has been linked to other dubious practices in the past years (and I've featured one or two in previous posts).