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August 22, 2009

Nigerian activist group faults UK's £100m support for GM crops in Africa

by Roseline Okere

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has criticised plans by the government of the United Kingdom to spend about £100 million to support the growing of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Africa.

According to ERA, a new white paper shows that the UK government will dramatically increase spending on high-tech agriculture in the next five years, much of which will be on GM crop research.

The breakdown of the funding, ERA/FoEN explained, shows that bio-fortified crops, containing so-called added vitamins, will receive £80 million of development money, while £60 million will go into researching drought-resistant maize for Africa, while pest resistance will be funded to the tune of £24 million.

Reacting to the development, ERA/FoEN depicted the gesture as an "attempt to control, colonise and contaminate food supply under the guise of helping the Africa continent." The group added that the white paper avoids the terms "genetically modified" even when scientists and development experts were clear that much of the money would be spent on GM crops.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey said: "It is extremely ridiculous that the British government overlooked contentious issues such as under-investment in African solutions to hunger, lack of infrastructure and extension services in rural communities and only narrowed our hunger challenge to yields and so-called vitamins. It is shocking that the British government would believe the claims of biotech industry that GMOs yield better than organic or conventional varieties at a time when empirical evidence has shown that such claims are not true."

Bassey reiterated ERA's position that Africans must be allowed to determine what they want to eat as well as how and where they want it grown, explaining that, a recent report from South Africa revealed that even indigenous chickens have refused to eat GM maize.

"If chickens will not eat it why should we? Do chickens have more brains than people? This unholy gesture should be an eye-opener to African governments that hobnob with the biotech industry and their allied research institutes that are only interested in providing un-African solutions to our challenges. Time and again we have said that the true test of the sincerity of the global North in addressing the food crisis in Africa is not the thrusting of GMO foods down African throats but to sincerely and without hidden motives listen to Africans and support ecological solutions being developed on the continent. Any attempt to arm-twist African countries into accepting GMO in the guise of aid will not be accepted," Bassey warned.


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