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[genet-news] SCIENCE & POLICY: Protect local crops from Monsanto



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   PROTECT LOCAL CROPS FROM MONSANTO

SOURCE:  New Vision, Uganda

AUTHOR:  Opiyo Oloya

URL:     http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/20/736168

DATE:    27.10.2010

SUMMARY: "I raised the alarm because Monsanto?s record does not match its promise to help poor countries like Uganda feed their population. After the article appeared, I was inundated with e-mails and letters from very angry Ugandans and readers from around the world supporting the call to stop the planned GMO testing."

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PROTECT LOCAL CROPS FROM MONSANTO

Dear fellow Ugandans, A week ago today, I wrote a letter to President Yoweri Museveni in which I outlined my strongest objections to the plan to test genetically modified (GMO) maize in Uganda. The letter followed a news report that the testing is a joint project of Uganda scientists and agro-giant Monsanto.

I raised the alarm because Monsanto?s record does not match its promise to help poor countries like Uganda feed their population. After the article appeared, I was inundated with e-mails and letters from very angry Ugandans and readers from around the world supporting the call to stop the planned GMO testing.

Titus Nalinda wrote: ?Having researched on GMO and their effect, I have found that they are of no value to Africa and no country should seek to adopt and use them as a solution to anything.? Allan Agaba pointed out the many health problems experienced because of GMOs. He wrote: ?The effects of these GMOs are clearly seen in the rampant diseases you hear about here abroad.?

Another reader Eseza Mulyagonja from Oak Seed wrote about the huge response she got after sharing the article with colleagues and friends. She wrote: ?Everybody thinks we can do something to save ourselves from a group that clearly has diabolical intentions.?

Meanwhile on the recommendation of another reader, this past weekend I rented the documentary film, Food Inc. by Robert Kenner, and sat down with my sons Oceng, 12, and Ogaba, 7 to watch it. The film exposes how four or five huge US multinational companies control the production of beef, pork and chicken in America and how Monsanto is part of this sickening food monopoly.

To speed the growth of beef cattle, the animals are fed on maize (corn) instead of natural grass and, in some cases, even meat of other cows! The chicken are crowded in huge darkened barns with no natural light and fed on syrupy food instead of grain to fatten them within the shortest possible period for the market. The consequences are chicken that cannot walk or run but lie down under their own weight; hundreds die each day and are thrown away. The rest are shovelled into containers to be processed as food. Sickening and depressing!

Meanwhile, contributing to this huge business conglomerates is Monsanto which controls almost all the maize and soybean production in America. Monsanto, for example, patented the genetically-modified soybean in the 1980s, and by 2008, 90% of soybean in the US contains Monsanto's patented gene.

Farmers who want to grow maize or soybean have little choice but to buy GM seeds from Monsanto with the clear understanding that they cannot keep any seeds to plant the following year. Those rebellious farmers who continue to plant organic indigenous maize are constantly fighting to keep their field from becoming contaminated by Monsanto?s genetically modified maize. This is an almost impossible task because the winds blow the corn pollen far and wide. Unfortunately when their fields become contaminated with Monsanto?s genetically altered maize genes, small farmers must prove that they did not steal Monsanto?s seeds. Scared small farmers often pay up to avoid being ruined by Monsanto?s powerful lawyers.

In one scene, a farmer whose face is covered to hide his identity spoke of paying Monsanto rather than face ruin. Now, why am I telling you this? For the simple reason that if the planned GMO maize testing is allowed to proceed, it will take less than a decade for all the indigenous maize in Uganda to be contaminated with the Monsanto maize genes. Let any scientist of repute tell me to my face that ?Opiyo you are dead wrong on this.?

Secondly, once all the indigenous maize in Uganda carry the genetically modified gene, the multinational will swoop in to implement Phase 2, namely, to start collecting money from farmers found to have cultivated crops bearing the genetically modified genes. They will claim that they own the intellectual property to the genes. Despite the promise not to levy royalties on poor farmers, it is only a matter of time before the entire country and continent is on its knees, beholden to Monsanto or another giant multinational.

But, this is more than just about money. This is about losing our farming heritage altogether. Indeed, as I sat with my sons watching the film Food Inc., it occurred to me that Uganda?s struggle to stop Monsanto and other big multinationals from bringing in GMO is similar to the biblical story of Noah who placed in his ark all manner of animals and seeds in order to preserve them during the flood. From the documentary, it becomes obvious that this is a fight to save naturally organic agriculture harvests.

By the way, have noticed that the acronym for Naturally Organic Agriculture Harvests is NOAH? Fellow Ugandans, here is one more fact you should know in fighting the planned Monsanto GMO maize testing. In Food Inc., those American farmers who insisted on leaving cows to graze on grass instead of eating genetically modified maize, and chicken to run freely eating worms and seeds as they do in many homes in Uganda, are reaping the financial benefits now. Consumers drive hundreds of miles to buy these organic food products rather than risk their health eating mass produced food. The lesson is simple: Let the beautiful long-horn cows in western Uganda remain long-horns and not something completely different.

So here is the deal. Today you must decide whether you are going to sit around and do nothing or become an advocate of NOAH. From village to village, town to town, you must mobilise against the threat of Monsanto and genetically modified seeds from taking over small farms, animals and homes.

In small groups, form chapters of Naturally Organic Agriculture Harvests (NOAH). There should be a NOAH-Kapsora, NOAH-Gulu, NOAH-Anaka, NOAH-Pakwach, NOAH-Kisoro, NOAH-Apach, NOAH-Serere, NOAH-Masaka, and so forth. The choice is yours.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   MR PRESIDENT, STOP MONSANTO MAIZE TRIALS

SOURCE:  New Vision, Uganda

AUTHOR:  Opiyo Oloya

URL:     http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/20/735574

DATE:    19.10.2010

SUMMARY: "Despite promises of ?no royalty fees?, the multinational companies expect and will enforce the collection of annual fees from the poor farmers now forced to plant the ?new crop?. Mr. President, one of the companies behind this maize research is Monsato, the US-based bio-tech company. Now, without being dramatic about it, the aggressive business model of marketing GM seeds around the world was pioneered by Monsanto."

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MR PRESIDENT, STOP MONSANTO MAIZE TRIALS

DEAR President Yoweri Museveni,I am writing to categorically reject the latest effort by Monsanto and others to start testing genetically modified maize in Uganda.

I first wrote to you on the issue on September 17, 2003, outlining my concerns about introducing genetically modified (GM) crops to Uganda. My fears then, as now, centre not on the science of GM which is quite advanced and could be useful in sub-Sahara Africa to boost food production, but rather on the potential enslavement of the end-users, namely, the poor farmers that are eventually forced by multinational giants in America and Europe to relinquish all controls over indigenous seeds that are genetically altered and then re-introduced as new crops.

Despite promises of ?no royalty fees?, the multinational companies expect and will enforce the collection of annual fees from the poor farmers now forced to plant the ?new crop?. Mr. President, one of the companies behind this maize research is Monsato, the US-based bio-tech company. Now, without being dramatic about it, the aggressive business model of marketing GM seeds around the world was pioneered by Monsanto. This is the same company that sued a Canadian farmer named Percy Schmeiser in August 1998 because the farmer?s crop became cross-pollinated by Monsanto?s genetically modified canola. Monsanto contended that Schmeiser did not pay to use their GM seeds, while Schmeiser argued that he was the victim because Monsanto?s GM canola contaminated his field of indigenous canola. Two lower Canadian courts sided with Monsanto, ruling that Schmeiser owed the big multinational over $200,000 in damages for property infringement.

When the case reached the Supreme Court of Canada in May 2004, five out of nine judges sided with Monsanto saying that indeed the company had every right to protect its property rights, in this case, the GM seeds. But in a carefully-worded ruling, the Supreme Court also ruled that Schmeiser did not have to pay anything because he did not profit from the GM seeds. In 2008, Monsanto agreed to pay the cost of cleaning up Schmeiser?s contaminated field.

Mr. President, Monsanto is in it for the money not to help little poor Uganda farmers make abundant harvests of maize. The case of what became known as the ?chapati scandal? illustrates my point very clearly.

In early 2004, Monsanto was awarded American and European patent rights to India?s century-old wheat variety known as Nap Hal which is particularly suited for making delicious chapatis that Indians have enjoyed from the beginning of time. In fact, Monsanto bought the rights to patent Nap Hal from Unilever in 1998, thereby staking its rights to having ?invented? part of Nap Hal.

The people of India understandably could not take this lying down, and quite rightfully challenged Monsanto in court, and in every forum. In May 2004, with the possibility of losing face, Monsanto sold its Nap Hal rights to a French company named RAGT Genetiques SA. In September 2004, the European Patent Office (EPO) pulled the plug on the whole thing, revoking the patent rights on Nap Hal wheat, thereby returning the rights to plant Nap Hal back to the people of India who had cultivated it for centuries.

Mr. President, let me put it to you directly this way. The plan to test GM maize in Uganda is a Monsanto project from the beginning to the end. Indeed, the Nairobi-based non-profit African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) which made the announcement about the impending trial is a Trojan for Monsanto and other big bio-tech giants like Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, and DuPont. When the AATF was founded in July 2002, two of the prominent members of the design advisory committee (DAC) were none other than Monsanto?s golden boy Dr. Gerard Barry who was instrumental in expanding Monsanto?s business empire in Asia. The other was Dr. Florence Wambugu who, upon getting her PhD doing sweet potato research, was hired by Monsanto to begin research on sweet potato.

Although AATF is very careful to camouflage its connections to bio-tech giants, the footprints in the sand tell a different story. One of its advisors William S. Niebur is listed as Vice President, Product Development, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. What is left out is the fact that Pioneer Hi-Bred was bought by DuPont in 1999, and Mr. Niebur is now a vice-president at DuPont.

Furthermore, Ghana-based Dr. Monty Jones is another AATF advisor who sits on the prestigious Monsanto?s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program which awards fellowships. Another advisor, Dr. Josette Lewis a consultant for USAID has given at least two lectures at the Syngenta Foundation. But the most unabashed connection to big biotech companies was made by AATF implementing director Eugene Terry.

In a talk he gave at Columbia University in May 2004, Terry was upfront in aggressively promoting AATF by letting it be known that the core mission of the fledgling organisation was to ?Enter into contractual agreements with existing institutions that will manage deployment of the technologies?. Translation: A team of lawyers will make sure that bio-tech giants get their money?s worth when their GM technologies are used in Africa.

Mr. President, do three things. One, stop the trial of GM maize immediately. Two, let a team of Uganda policy makers draft a policy that protects the rights of Ugandans, including my mother?s, to use indigenous maize and other indigenous seeds in perpetuity. Three, once and for all, make into law how Uganda farmers will be compensated by these companies when and if through accident or malfeasance, their indigenous crops become contaminated by GM varieties.

I repeat what I said seven years ago-the big multinational agriculture companies can take care of themselves. Your job is to protect Ugandans.




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