Via This Is Africa, Paula Akugizibwe on conquering the world through the food chain:
While the science of GMOs may remain murky, the economics are crystal clear. The most obvious and direct of these is the matter of seed ownership and control.
Unlike traditional agriculture, in which seeds are the property of nobody in particular and nature at large, GMO farming places the ownership of seeds firmly in the hands of corporations, and entitles them to a share of profits from crop sales. GMO farmers are not allowed to save seed produced through their crops for use in the coming season, as they have always done.
Meanwhile, in some African countries such as Nigeria, genetically modified cotton is viewed as an ideal entry point for GMOs. “We don’t eat our clothes, so people are less concerned about cotton. This would be the first way in for GMOs,” explained Kola Masha, a Nigerian agribusiness advisor, earlier this year. Such assessments, however, do not acknowledge that the uncertain health impacts and inconsistent agricultural benefits of GMOs are only a part of the picture.
The fundamental issue here is that of control. As Duke Tagoe of Food Sovereignty Ghana explained to The Guardian earlier this year: “The origin of food is seed. Whoever controls the seed controls the entire food chain. These seeds are not owned by any African entity, they are owned by American companies.” GMO farming displace traditional approaches to agriculture, approaches which possess a rich history and knowledge base that could be built upon to increase produce.
In addition to seed control, dependency is further entrenched by the fact that land in Africa is increasingly being bought up by foreign entities, as the global demand for food and minerals grows. In the process of these land grabs, the homes and livelihoods of communities are uprooted. The World Bank has been singled out for facilitating these land grabs by pushing privatisation policies on countries and providing investors with large loans to support their shopping sprees.
The African continent, having the most available arable land, presents the ideal frontier for expansion of the GM industry – so as countries relax their policy on GM, land grabs are only likely to intensify, in what some have referred to as ‘genetic colonialism’. This increasing concentration of land ownership in the hands of the elite in turn exacerbates the drivers of poverty and hunger.
The proponents of GMOs hail it as a way to “feed the world”. What this slogan fails to capture is that the forces underpinning the shifting landscape of agribusiness are the same forces that have created an economic system in which, despite having a substantial surplus of food, hundreds of millions of people starve daily. Will such deep-rooted inequalities be changed by a future in which corporations control the seed, the land and the intellectual property of food and cotton? Or will they be further entrenched?