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Ten Years of Genetically Modified Crops Fail to Deliver Benefits to Africa

PRESS RELEASE
African Center for Biosafety and Friends of the Earth Nigeria

January 10, 2006

TEN YEARS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS FAIL TO DELIVER BENEFITS TO AFRICA

Johannesburg (South Africa), Lagos (Nigeria), January 10, 2006 – Ten years after the first significant planting of Genetically Modified (GM) crops there are no apparent benefits for consumers, farmers or the environment, and despite renewed promises by biotech corporations, there has been no impact on hunger and poverty, according to a report by the African Center for Biosafety and Friends of the Earth International. [1]

The 100-page report "Who benefits from GM crops? Monsanto and its corporate driven genetically modified crop revolution" concludes that the increase in GM crops in a limited number of countries has largely been the result of the aggressive strategies of the biotech industry, rather than the consequence of benefits derived from using GM technology.

"Contrary to the promises made by the biotech industry, the reality of the last ten years shows that the safety of GM crops cannot be ensured and that these crops are neither cheaper nor of better quality. Biotech crops are not a solution to the hunger question in Africa or elsewhere," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

The biotech industry continues the misleadingly claim that GM crops play a role in solving world hunger in Africa and the world's largest producer of GM seeds, Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON), holds an oppressive influence over agriculture and food policies in many countries and international bodies.

Several Western African Governments Burkina Fasso and other Governments in Western Africa have been under substantial pressure in recent years to rapidly introduce GM cotton.[2] In the meantime at the end of 2005, South Africa adopted a moratorium on new GM crops pending a study of the Department of Trade and Industry.

"The moratorium on new GM crops in South Africa sends a clear signal of the failure of GM crops in our continent. GM cotton in South Africa did not solve our farmers problems, on the contrary it has contributed to increase their indebtedness. The rest of African countries where Monsanto is promoting Bt cotton should learn from our experience".

The new report states that:

* GM crops in Africa will not solve hunger. Most GM crops commercialised so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty. GM Bt cotton in South Africa's Makhathini Flats has been widely promoted by Monsanto as an African small farmer/GM success story and a solution to poverty. However, since 2000 the number of Bt cotton farmers in South Africa has lessened, many of them incurring losses and defaulting on their loans, raising strong questions about the impact of GMOs on poverty reduction

* - Monsanto-funded Kenyan sweet potato fails. GM sweet potato in Kenya was presented as a key GM crop to help African agriculture. However by the end of January 2004, and more than US$10 million later, the results of the trials were quietly published in Kenya, showing that none of the claims were true. The results revealed that the non-GM sweet potatoes had yielded significantly more than the GM variety.

- A moratorium in South Africa. In November 2005, despite having introduced GM crops in several hundred thousand hectares, the South African government communicated that it had placed a moratorium on import approvals, pending the outcome of a socio-economic study that the Department of Trade and Industry.

* GM crops are not 'green'. Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use. Independent reports from the US show that since 1996, GM corn, soybean and cotton have led to an increase in pesticide use of 122 million pounds (55 million Kilos). The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America contributes to deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.

After ten years of GM crop cultivation more than 80% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the US, Argentina and Canada.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

In Nigeria: Nnimmo Bassey
Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Tel: +234 8037274395 (mobile) +234 52602680 (office)

In South Africa: Mariam Mayet
African Center for Biosafety
Tel: P: +27 (0)11 646 0699 C: +27 (0) 84 683 3374

NOTES TO EDITORS:

[1] The executive summary of the report is available from January 10 at http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/gmcrops2007execsummary.pdf
The full report is available upon request from ann@foei.org

[2] A four-page 'Key Facts of a decade of GM crops' is available from January 10 at:
http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/gmcrops2006factsheet.pdf