In Africa, maize is a main source of food for millions on people. Which is a very good reason that government’s of Africa really should take a precautionary approach in how these crops are grown and be informed enough to ask the right questions.
The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project aims to produce drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties, both conventional and genetically modified (GM), for Africa. While there is no doubt that the climate change problem for farmers is very real and tools are needed for them to be able to adapt and to increase their resilience, the WEMA project deserves further scrutiny, not only for the GM component, which raises biosafety and other concerns, but also for the model of agriculture it is promoting.
A recent civil society knowledge and information sharing on the WEMA project brought together representatives from civil society organisations from the five WEMA countries (Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda) to discuss the project. The meeting was organized by the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (KBioC) and held in Naivasha, Kenya from 19 to 21 July 2017. Lim Li Ching from the Third World Network writes about the event, which provided an opportunity to participants to commit to working together.
Several concerns were raised about the GM drought-tolerant maize, including whether or not genetic engineering is fit for purpose in this case, given that drought is a complex challenge that doesn’t lend itself to single gene solutions. Moreover, the GM drought-tolerant maize will not be available without the insect-resistant trait, and participants wondered why a failed event such as MON 810 was being ‘donated’ to four of the five countries (South Africa, which has phased out MON 810 maize due to the development of insect resistance, will be donated a two-toxin event instead).
Participants also discussed alternative solutions to climate change, such as agroecology. Time and again, we have seen that real solutions do not lie with corporations or the industrial model of agriculture, but are instead in the hands of farmers and farmer-managed seed systems.
Don’t Forget About the Seed Bills Submissions in South Africa – have you submitted your response?