Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Growing GM crops to sell is currently legal in only four countries in the region: Egypt, Sudan, Burkina Faso and South Africa. Uganda is the latest country to consider a bill to allow GM crops.

Scientists, farmers and international organizations are pressuring governments to relax restrictions on the technology. They argue that engineered crops have the potential to alleviate some of the grave threats to food production, from plant diseases to climate change.

80 percent of Ugandans grow at least some of their own food, and depend on their own harvests for their livelihood. And so more people are vulnerable to the weather and pests. GM crops might be more reliable than what Ugandans currently plant.

Each Ugandan eats about 1 pound of the fruit per day, on average. Bananas are the main source of starch in Uganda and many homes have banana trees. They are more important than wheat. But in the past decade, bacterial wilt disease has been cutting banana yields by 30 to 50 percent in some regions of Uganda. There are no pesticides or chemicals to stop the banana disease. But scientists at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization have engineered a bacteria-resistant version of the banana by putting a pepper gene into the plant. The scientists want to give away the GM banana for free to millions of Ugandan families.

The same with a transgenic virus-resistant cassava, a crop that may be more important for protecting families against famine than bananas.  The starchy cassava tuber is the go-to crop  when the cupboard is bare. It's resistant to drought, poor soils and climate change.

Cassava and bananas can both grow from clippings. So there's little risk of private corporations controlling the seed supplies for GM cassava or banana, like they do for corn and soybeans in the U.S.

Farmers are worried about the power to control the seeds. Farmers have been told that the GMOs are almost the same as non-GMOs. But they would have to go to a company to buy the seeds. Many farmers can't afford expensive seeds. They would have no rights. Many farm organically, without pesticides and fertilizers. But some GMOs encourage the use of extensive pesticides. These can damage other organisms, such as bees and could affect the fish population.

 Most of the people promoting the GMOs have a conflict of interest. Many foreign companies, like Monsanto, have funded the research on GMOs. They are not in a position to give an unbiased opinion on whether GMOs are good or not. Monsanto et al are unhappy with that closed market.

FAO research has identified approximately 250,000 plant species out of an estimated 300,000-500,000 in existence. Of that, about 30,000 are edible, and of these about 7000 plants and an additional 700 animal species have been used throughout the world’s history as food. Today, however, only 3 plants (wheat, rice, and maize) provide more than half of the global plant-derived energy. If we add six more crops (sorghum, millet, potatoes, sweet potatoes, soya beans, and sugar (cane or beet)) we cover 75% of the world’s energy. And, if we go a bit further, it is estimated that 95% of the world’s energy now comes from only 30 crops.

Will GMOs protect against empty bellies? Socialist Banner has no confidence in that claim. Hunger is caused by empty wallets and purses.

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