ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

13 September 2002


"in addition to offering little to Africa's small farmers, [GM crops] threaten to further undermine the fragile agricultural systems that these farmers depend upon." (item 1)

3. 'Farmers and the GM maze' - Video for UK dairy farmers



Author(s): Kuyek, D.

Produced by: Genetic Resources Action International

This briefing looks at the push to bring genetically  modified (GM) crops and technologies to Africa and shows  the implications for farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa.  What will the introduction of GM crops mean for Africa and  its small farmers in particular? Is there any reason to  believe that the new 'gene revolution' will be any more  successful than the failed Green Revolution in Africa?

The author looks at who is pushing the technology and who  is asking for it; it analyses whether GM crops are safe and  questions whether African farmers really need it. The  report provides several case studies that look at some of  the GM crops that are being used to lead the charge into  Africa. Case studies include:

* the use of Bt Cotton in southern Africa
* the development of non-biotech varieties of sweet potato
* traditional and biotech control of maize pests

These examples suggest that in addition to offering little  to Africa's small farmers, they threaten to further  undermine the fragile agricultural systems that these  farmers depend upon. The briefing does not share the  optimism of the proponents of genetic engineering. Rather,  it views genetic engineering as an extension of the Green  Revolution paradigm that failed to address the needs of  Africa's small farmers and served only to exacerbate their  problems.

Available online at:



Author(s): Kuyek, D.

Produced by: Genetic Resources Action International

This paper looks at the choice facing African policy-makers  over which of two opposing models of agricultural R&D to  choose to support. One is driven by multinational companies  in the North and relies upon private monopolies and  genetically modified crops. The other is led by farmers,  with support from the public sector, and is based on the  collective use of knowledge and resources for sustainable  agriculture.

The author argues that Africa's small farmers and the seed  industry have completely different needs when it comes to supporting their innovation, and intellectual property  rights (IPR) are only designed for one of them. If African  governments adopt IPR regimes on agricultural biodiversity,  then they are choosing a corporate model of plant breeding  and, subsequently, a re-organisation of agriculture  according to the interests of Northern seed companies - not the  food security of Africa or the well-being of the continent's  farmers.

The briefing aims to provide rural community workers,  farmers and policy makers in Africa with information that  will contribute to their understanding of the implications  of IPRs on plant genetic resources for small farmers in  Eastern and Southern Africa. It situates the emergence of  IPRs on plant genetic resources within a larger history, in  which the innovative strength and traditions of African  farming communities have been consistently disregarded.

It concludes that the emergence of IPRs in African  agriculture is highly detrimental to local food production  and small farming systems, and that a reorientation of  policies is urgently needed.

Available online at:


3. 'Farmers and the GM maze' - Video for dairy farmers (approx 10 minutes)
Specially made for showing to dairy farmers to provide them with information about the GM fodder maize and the prospect of commerciallisation of Chardon LL next year.
Covers issues such as liability, new EU labeling, animal feed, property values, economic and environmental issues, north american experiences, safety tests on chardon ll, seed saving, superweeds, etc
It's made up of mostly old footage from various sources and with a voiceover and a few talking heads including a conventional farmer, an organic farmer, a monsanto bod, and a responsible scientist.
It can be viewed in low quality low bandwidth version online..
right click and save target -
It is an 11mb download. If you have a broadband connection then it will take a couple of minutes.

If you have an ordinary 56k modem it will take about an hour! so don't try unless you are on a penny a minute or a free connection.
The film is in DixV AVI format which is highly compressed.

If you any problems viewing this file - visit to download the required software/CODEC
[Also note: There is also a new leaflet - 'GM Maize, the story so far'. We did a limited print run of about 100 for the Lifecycles tour but we can email a version to people in PDF format on request.]
--- rough film script thingy ---
voiceover - Under huge pressure from multinational biotech companies, attempts are being made to plant a wide variety of genetically modified crops on a massive scale all around the world.
vo - Many are engineered to be resistant to specific chemicals, patented and manufactured by Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer and other multinationals. They suggest that the new technology will "feed the world" by providing greater yields. They also claim that the environment will benefit because of reduced chemical herbicide and pesticide use.
vo - Although GM crops have only been grown commercially for around seven years, there is already mounting evidence that the economic benefits are exaggerated and that, as weeds develop herbicide resistance over the course of a few years, chemical use on farms actually goes up - not down.
vo - Despite having alien genetic material inserted into them, we are told that these varieties are "substantially equivalent" to conventional plants, but it can not be shown that these products are safe.
monsanto person speaks about the 'benefits'..
vo - Despite their appalling record on farming - from Salmonella, BSE and Foot and Mouth - the government have now launched a propaganda campaign to convince both consumers and farmers,  that growing GM is a good idea . They hope to pave the way for commercial planting by 2004.
The first variety they want grown is a fodder maize called Chardon LL, designed to be resistant to glufosinate ammonium (often sold as Liberty).
The supposed benefit of Chardon LL is easy weed control.  You can spray the broad spectrum herbicide after the crop has emerged, thus doing away with the use of the highly unpleasant chemical, Atrazine. But a recent study in Canada revealed that farmers growing the same variety had resorted to using a mix of both atrazine and glufosinate ammonium, because a single application of Liberty failed to provide the promised weed control.
vo - One of the governments own advisors, English Nature, has since expressed concerns that this casts doubts on the technology‚s environmental aspirations. Even if this issue could be resolved, other factors suggest that weed problems will be exasperated by the use of these herbicide resistant crops.
Agronomist talking about cross fertilisation and herbicide resistant weeds.
vo - Because you can spray more frequently than before, and because only two forms of herbicide are being used in conjunction with GM crops, the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds is happening more rapidly. Volunteer weeds can become unmanageable and studies by MAFF have found volunteers tolerant to both glyphosate and glufosinate. A 2002 English Nature report done in Canada found that volunteers resistant to a variety of widely used herbicides were found at every site studied.
vo - Dr Brian Johnson of English Nature said that this could make the technology "self defeating" and stated that "the SCIMAC code is probably inadequate to prevent gene stacking happening in Britain."
vo - GM seeds are expensive - due to the companies‚ need to recoup the research costs.
Interview with conventional farmer talking about cutting costs and
monopoly of a few multinational companies.
vo - Although a relatively high take up in America suggests that GM crops must be economic, a study by the European Commission's Agriculture Directorate concluded that "The available studies do not provide conclusive evidence on the profitability of GM crops".  In fact many US farmers have experienced problems with the reliability of these crops. In April 2000 160,000 US farmers collectively tried to sue Monsanto for reduced yields from GM soya, And in 1997, fifty four farmers sought compensation when herbicide tolerant cotton developed prematurely dropping and deformed 'bolls'.
vo - It's very possible that these failures were due to the additional genes in the plant causing unpredictable 'side effects'. Genetic manipulation is an inherently imprecise and unstable technology.

First interview with responsible scientist about unstable nature of the technology.
vo - There are many problems generated by the need to segregate crops on the farm.  The industry body SCIMAC recommends "cleaning drills thoroughly after use, before leaving the field".  Because of the risk of contamination, a distances of 200 metres is required between GM maize and organic maize or conventional sweetcorn.  However even this separation is far less than maize pollination distances reported in scientific journals.
vo - "No insurer provides insurance cover for the risks of GM crop contamination" (NFU Mutual) because they believe the risks to be too great. The onus is on the GM farmer to notify his neighbours in writing and to resolve differences, and claims may be made against growers of GM if their crops damage their neighbours businesses.
Interview with Guy Watson (in 1998) about threat to his organic status due to GM maize being grown nearby.
vo - Growing GM could also affect the value of your land, the European Landowners Association said . "If GMOs contaminated land clearly this would have an effect on the value of the property." The European Society for Chartered Surveyors has called on the EU to set up a register of land where GM crops are grown.
vo - There were no safety tests of feeding maize to cattle before Chardon LL was given approval. One of the tests which was done involved feeding the variety to chickens for two weeks. Twice as many chickens died when fed the GM maize as is statistically normal with broiler hens. But this anomaly in the data wasn't noticed by the regulators, and unusually for results of this kind, the experiment was never repeated.
vo - Because of the public‚s concern about GM, most supermarkets have made commitments to source non GM fed dairy and animal products. Recent changes to EU law regarding labelling of GM ingredients will make finding a market for GM products more difficult. It will also make it considerably easier for farmers to source non GM animal feeds. At present, crushed GM soya from the US constitutes a large proportion of commercial feed mix and is unlabelled.
vo - In the US, even farmers whose seeds have been accidentally contaminated by neighbouring crops are being sued by the biotech companies for infringement of royalties, because the GM seeds are patented. Most famously Percy Schmeiser was sued after his oilseed rape from farm-saved seed was found to be accidentally contaminated with GM. There are regular incidents of private investigators searching out similar 'guilty' farmers and threatening them with fines as high as ten thousand dollars. Many settle out of court to avoid lawyers‚ costs. Anyone wanting to ensure their seeds are GM free prior to planting will have to buy genetic tests at their own expense.
vo - According to a recent European Commission report - if GM is commercialised -  the massive shake up required in farming practises to reduce the risk of cross pollination, could create "unsustainable costs of production".
vo - Over the last four years, the public have made it quite clear what they think of GM crops.  As well as issues with the health and environmental impact of this technology, their concern also stems from the growing control of the foodchain by biotech companies.
vo - While such corporations try to tell us that their products are needed to 'feed the world',  in 1998 delegates from eighteen African countries responded to GM marketing campaigns by saying, "We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us."

final piece with responsible scientist person talking about the long term threat...
"Biotechnology and GM crops are taking us down a dangerous road, creating the classic conditions for hunger, poverty and even famine. Ownership and control concentrated in too few hands and a food supply based on too few varieties of crops planted widely are the worst option for food security."  Christian Aid report: "Biotechnology and GMOs"

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