Organic Consumers Association

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Africa's Big Little Anti-GM Revolution

Some revolutions are as important for the way their seeds took root as for the transformation they usher in. Protests and campaigns against genetically modified (GM) crops are routine across the globe but none has resulted in the dramatic denouement witnessed in Burkina Faso, a small impoverished country in West Africa. In this top cotton exporting country, GM or Bt cotton, peddled by agri biotech giant Monsanto under the Bollgard II trademark, has been rolled back completely. And Monsanto itself is, reportedly, exiting Burkina Faso after paying compensation to the cotton companies for the decline in revenues and more significantly for damage to the reputation of Burkina cotton. 

Those familiar with Monsanto operations worldwide, especially in India where farmers have suffered debilitating losses and destruction of livelihoods, would find this is unprecedented. Monsanto has never acknowledged that its insect-resistant Bt cotton has ever failed although damage to their crop has compelled huge numbers of farmers to take their own lives.

And yet, it is to India that Burkina Faso farmers owe a debt for getting their act together to tackle the biotech giant. From across continents has come their learning of how to collect data and use it effectively to demand more sustainable agriculture practices. As Bt cotton began to rapidly envelop the cotton-growing areas of Burkina Faso (see ‘Rise and fall of...’,), farmers, initially happy with Monsanto’s Bollgard II, found their problems increasing. The Indian experience showed them they needed to act quickly.

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