Researchers: Africa Genetically Modified Crops Held Back by Scaremongering


22 September, 2014
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

A new report says genetically-modified or GM crops would greatly improve agriculture in Africa. The policy group Chatham House released the report. It says African governments are unlikely to approve GM crops, because opponents are spreading fear about its possible dangers.

Rob Bailey is a writer of the report.

"They've created anti-GM campaigns based on misinformation. So for example, alleging a link between GM crops and infertility, or cancer, or animal deformities. None of which is true, there's no evidence for any of this," Bailey said.

In Uganda, scientists are working in a temperature-controlled laboratory. They are developing what they call a "golden banana". They say it will be stronger, and will have higher levels of vitamins and minerals than traditional bananas.

Priva Namanya is one of the researchers. "We have been able to show that we can increase our vitamin A levels six times," Namanya said.

Rob Bailey says GM crops offer the best hope of increasing productivity and dealing with climate change in Africa.

Opponents of GM crops also argue that they are costly to grow. They say they do not produce more than non-GM crops. They say GM crops require more use of chemicals than traditional crops. And they say that companies that support GM crops are more interested in making money than in helping poor farmers grow more crops.

Tetteh Nartey grows pawpaw, maize and other vegetables near the Ghanaian capital Accra. This year Ghana approved a test of GM grains like cowpeas. Mr. Nartey disagrees with that decision.

"Anything that is not natural it has got its bad side, if it is not natural then be very careful because at the end of the day we start taking GM products, but who has done the research?" asked Nartey.

Ghana's government says it has put strong laws in place to guard against problems from GM crops.

Soren Ambrose is with the group Action Aid. He says increasing the amount of food, using GM crops is not a good way to end food shortages in Africa.

"It's not so much the problem of producing food, as it is the problem of getting the food that is produced to the people who need it," said Ambrose.

Bernard Guri works at Ghana's Center for Indigenous Knowledge. He is worried the GM crops could force many of Africa's millions of small farms to stop growing food.

"This is against our sovereignty, it is another form of colonialism where gradually the developed world is conspiring to take over our food system in terms of taking over our land, taking over our seed, and taking over the whole farming food system," said Guri.

I'm Caty Weaver.