Corrupted Seeds and the future of food

An excerpt from an essay titled SEEDS OF CORRUPTION  from the upcoming book called Rock ‘n Rule: The Essays, Stories and Poetry of Menzi Maseko

The Problems Posed By Genetically Modified Organisms in Southern Afrika and Globally

“Developing countries export capacity, especially Africa’s, is undermined and restricted by unjust trade practices. Agricultural products from developing nations face protection that is four to seven times higher than goods from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development states (Newsframer 2006:16).

This unjust protection has a negative effect on the development of Africa in particular because a large percentage of the population depends on the agricultural sector for survival. According to the Commission for Africa Report the agricultural sector is responsible for 70% of the employment on the continent and accounts for 30% of Africa’s GDP (direct).” – (Africa and the Developed World, by Khwezi Mabasa, The Thinker magazine, November 2011/Volume 33)

Introduction

This is but a brief summary of the apparently insurmountable challenges posed by Genetically Modified Organisms in Afrika. There are various sources of information relating to this subject ranging from books, non-governmental organisations, civil society formations, farmers journals and associations and of course on the world wide web.

For most of my data I have relied on these websites: www.biowatch.org.za , www.acbio.org.za and upon the many conversations I have had with fellow social activists, especially with my friend Vanessa Black. This lady possesses a wealth of experience and unbiased information and knowledge of this deleterious problem, so her input has been invaluable. It was through her that I was introduced to the campaigns, lobbying and other works of Earthlife, Earthlife Africa and the recently re-formed Earthlife Africa eThekwini.

I mention this on the offset and not in the end so that whosoever reads this gets an understanding that there are many people and organisations that have been resisting this inhumane and cancerous scourge for a very long time. It is no surprise that the struggle against proliferation of GM crops does not get sufficient media coverage, as if this is not a serious enough issue.

Many professionals from ecologists, biologists, doctors and even some politicians have lost much of their mainstream credibility and even livelihoods while seeking to reveal the truth surrounding this GMO issue. The truth as they say does hurt, but unfortunately it sometimes hurts both the truth teller and the ones who strive to prevent it from coming to light.

Suffice to say that the battle still rages on, on and off the pages, in the farms, supermarkets and as I often tell people: the revolution is on our plates; there is no turning away and avoiding the facts.

Our food and water is the final frontier when it comes to human rights and the struggle for sustainable ecological co-existence. It is sad to realise that just as in male-stream politics, there is no such things as common sense within the pro-GMO lobby. Keep the above quotation from The Thinker in mind through-out this article.

 

What Are Genetically Modified Organisms:

GMO’s are animals, plants and microbes that result from a process of genetic engineering where genes from one organism are unnaturally inserted into the DNA (impathafuzo) of another, usually a different type of organism. The key word is unnaturally.

For those of us who were asleep at science class or who attended the notoriously ill-equipped and perennially education-less township and rural schools, it is fitting to explain what DNA is.

DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid; it is the basic “blueprint” in every cell of a living thing. It is responsible for producing the proteins that determine how the organism looks, grows, functions and reproduces. Genes are the segments that make up the DNA containing codes for the specific proteins.

In genetic engineering, genes responsible for specific traits in an organism are cut out of the DNA and “spliced” into the DNA of the organism the scientist is trying to change. Due to the hit and miss or imprecise process of genetic engineering, scientists need to identify which cells have successfully “recombined with foreign genes”.

So What GMO’s are found in South Africa?

In 1998 South Africa harvested its first commercial Genetically Modified crops: Maize and Cotton. Yes, you read that right; our main staple crop is now genetically modified and is no longer as nature planned it.

Shockingly South Africa was the first country in the world to allow the growing and selling of a genetically modified staple food, and we remain one of the few countries in the world where this is the case.

Currently (2011) the GM crops permitted to be grown commercially in South Afrika are:

  • Maize – 77% is GM

Maize Ingredients to look out for are: dextrates, dextrins, maltodextrin, starch or modified starch; vegetable protein or hydrolysed vegetable protein, corn oil, corn starch, corn syrup, and corn meal/flour or maize meal.

  • Soya beans – 88% is GM (400 000 ha)

Soya Ingredients to look for are: hydrolysed vegetable protein, textured vegetable extract, soy protein isolate, soy protein, lecithin, emulsifier, maltodextrin, tofu, tempeh, shoyu and anything that mentions soya.

  • Cotton – 1005 is GM
  • Rice products include imported rice sticks, vermicelli, noodles, and cakes.
  • Canola oil – margarine spreads; crisps, salad dressings, biscuits and fried foods.

Can GMOs affect my health?

The only human clinical trial with Genetically Modified foods showed that modified genes from soy transfer into intestinal bacteria. This is very serious because traits found in currently commercialised GM crops include the ability of these cells to create a pesticidal toxin – our gut could become a living pesticide factory; as well as antibiotic resistance. This means that antibiotics in our current medical arsenal become completely ineffective, allowing even common infections to devastate the population.

This has even more catastrophic implications in Third World communities where GMOs and the genetic engineering carry on unchecked and unregulated. Countries such as India and the Afrikan continent are naturally more susceptible to all the deathly whims of pseudo-science.

Claims by the industry that no one has been hurt by GM foods are misleading. Since we do not know when we are eating them and no one monitors human health impacts. However, one study found that soya allergies skyrocketed by 50% after GM soya beans were imported to the UK. Specific health problems have also occurred since the 1980’s:

  • In 1988 a GM food supplement (L-tryptophan) was responsible for killing 100 Americans and causing up to 10 000 others to fall sick.
  • The movement of GMOs cannot be controlled absolutely. GMOs not approved in certain countries or which are not allowed for human consumption are discovered in other countries and in the wrong places.
  • GMOs have also been behind the rising health problems among livestock.
  • Sterility problems and increased infant mortality when infants eat GM feed.
  • Damage to organs including bleeding stomachs, excessive cell growth and inflammation in lung tissue …
  • This is just a brief summary of the health problems directly linked to the spread of Genetically Modified Organism through-out the food chain.

As from 2012 GM crops covered more than 2.1 million hectares of SA, making us the world’s 8th largest grower. These GM crops have one of both of the following genetically engineered traits (characteristics).

Herbicide tolerance (Ht) crops have genes inserted that make them resistant to herbicide. This is usually Monsanto’s Roundup – these are called Roundup Ready (RR). This allows farmers to spray the herbicide indiscriminately over their entire field to kill the crop. Companies such as Dow Chemicals are applying for new types of Ht crops tolerant to older and more toxic herbicides such as Glufosinate and 2,4-D

Insect Resistance (Bt) crops have an inserted gene from the soil bacteria, Basillus thuringiensis, which makes a toxin. This results in a GM plant that produces this Bt toxin in every cell making these plants living pesticides.

Imported Foods: Large quantities of GM maize and soya have been imported into South Afrika for animal feed and a variety of GM products enter SA as components of processed food. Recently Bayer’s GM rice LL62 approved for growing in the USA was approved for importation into SA as a commodity.

rBST in milk: South Afrika also allows dairy farmers to use a genetically engineered growth hormone called rBST or rbGH. It has been banned in over 100 countries, including those belonging to the European Union, due to the health problems it creates both for the cows producing and the people consuming the milk.

New GMO’s: Many experiments are being conducted in laboratories and open field trials for a variety of new GMO’s. In SA this includes banana, canola, cassava, cotton, grapes, maize, potato, sorghum, soya, sugar cane, and a variety of vaccines for humans and animals. Some of these are looking to new traits like drought tolerance or suitability for processing for starch and fuels.

An application by South Afrika’s Agricultural Research Council (ARC) to commercialise GM potatoes was turned down. ARC appealed and the final decision is waiting on the Minister of Agriculture.

Each time you eat food products imported from countries that have commercialised GMO’s especially the USA, Canada, Argentina and China, which together produce 99% of GM crops globally. Looking at these statistics you begin to get the idea. The countries of the so called First World, or their governments have dished out the menu, it is not in our power to question it, just gobble it up. There are many on-going battles by anti-GMO activists in all the countries mentioned, but the buck stops at government’s legislation.

Many governments have been paid billions by multinational monstrosities such as Monsanto, Nestle and even Coca Cola and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just to mention a few to make sure that no one can resist the spread of GMO’s even at the expense of the loss of thousands of autonomous farmer’s livelihoods.

There is a global agenda by the elites to ensure that organic farming becomes a thing of the past. All this is done in the name of helping poor people and in the pretence of providing more food security to a ballooning population. But everyone knows that the poverty problem has nothing to do with scarcity, but everything to do with how a few companies have monopolised and attempted to patent and own every means of production, from the seeds to the land.

Hunger is a daily reality for about 800 million human beings, most of them in the Third World, black and brown peoples. Hunger is not caused by inefficient farming or lack of food production. Hunger is caused by having no money to buy food, no access to land, poor food production, social inequality and military conflict and even blatant racism.

Unfair global free trade regimes coupled with subsidies to northern country farmers is allowing developed countries to dump cheap agricultural products in developing countries which destroys the livelihood of local farmers and the local agricultural industry. Once this happens, countries become food dependent and food becomes inaccessible to the poor. GMOs are introduced as the solution, but they only serve to make these conditions worse.

GM seeds and plants belong, through patent rights, to the company that created them. When you use these seeds you sign a contact with the company that you will not save them (the seeds) for the next season or share them with other people. You are also required to pay a yearly fee for using the company’s patented product.

 Who are the culprits?

There are only a handful of multinationals that control the production and sale of GM seeds. Monsanto has systematically been buying up seed companies (including Calgene, Asgrow, Dekalb genetics, Cargill, Pharmacia and Upjohn) since it shifted its focus from chemicals to biotechnology in the 1980’s.

In 2005, Monsanto moved into the international vegetable seed market by purchasing Seminis and thus became the world’s largest seed company. Seminis supplies over 3.500 seed varieties to fruit and vegetable growers in 51countries. Monsanto is now the leading producer of GM seeds in the world and its seed technology is used in at least 90% of all GM crops worldwide.

(Monsanto has manufactured several other controversial and dangerous products including Agent Orange* used by the USA military in the Vietnam War, PCBs, DDT and Aspartame).

Let us stop right there. There is much more information and documented testimonies from disenfranchised farmers all over the globe, who have been duped into sowing this devilish seed of corruption. Yet there is something that we all can do to curb the spread of this menace. Here are just a few clues:

What Can We Do?

  • Eat Organic
  • Be Informed
  • Tell other people about it
  • Demand that news on New GMO’s gets extensive Media coverage
  • Tell your government that you refuse to eat GMOs
  • Write to the ministers of Agriculture, Health and Trade and Industry: mention this:
  • No further field trials, releases and importation of GMO’s, Demand that SA goes GM free
  • Demand that the GM hormone rBST that is used to increase milk production be banned in SA
  • Demand the segregation of GM seeds, foodstuffs and animal feed from their non-GM counterparts.
  • Demand transparent and democratic public consultation with regard to GMOs
  • Demand the mandatory labelling of all products containing or resulting from GMO’s, these legislations must be enforced.

Finally, we know that our government representatives are mostly incompetent, but they are NOT ignorant. They know very well what they are up to and it is you right ad duty as a citizen to guarantee the health and safely of the land and the livelihood of your family and of the local farmers who produce our food.

Special thanks to Earthlife Africa for all the information and GM Free campaigns (which we must all become a part of) on GMO’s

(Special thanks to Earthlife Africa’s Vanessa Black* for the researched  information and the statistics )

 

 

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