GM & Arnie (9/10/2003)

Letters, Thursday October 9, 2003 The Guardian
Have the proponents of GM foods (Letters, passim) who say they are safe because Americans have been eating them for years without any adverse effects stopped to consider that they should be looking into the mental rather than physical well being of the nation? How else to account for the votes for Ronnie, Georgie and now Arnie?
Roshan Pedder
West Molesey, Surrey
If you're a kiwi, shine up your marching shoes, and tell all your friends! It's this Saturday: http://www.thebigmarch.net/
At the behest of Dubya, Uganda's president is trying to push his country into accepting GM crops, but even in  purely economic terms does that make any sense?

BBC Monitoring International Reports
October 8, 2003


Text of commentary by Opiyo Oloya entitled "The alternative to begging at the gate" published by Ugandan newspaper The New Vision web site on 8 October

The failed talks on agricultural subsidies in Cancun, Mexico last month, was a wake-up call to developing nations such as Uganda to change strategies and look at other ways of cracking the North American and European market.

In Cancun, led by Brazil, developing nations argued along this line: If the US, Canada and the EC could stop paying huge subsidies to their farmers thereby driving down the price of farm products on the global market, then developing nations in Africa and South America will have a chance to market their own products to Americans, Canadians and European eager to buy the alternative.

It's true that America has earmarked over 100bn dollars in subsidies over the next 10 years to its farmers while European governments give away 50bn dollars a year in farm subsidies. It's also true that the American and European farmer can afford to sell farm products at very low prices, hence scaring away the competition.

However, the problem with the above argument is that it assumes that without direct subsidies from their governments, American and European farmers could never sell in a competitive global market. Secondly, it assumes that set side by side at the same price, rice grown in Brazil or Uganda would be much superior to rice grown in Europe or America, thereby attracting more buyers.

Unfortunately, American and European farms enjoy technological advantages and farming practices only dreamed of in developing nations. Consequently, American and European farms will almost always win because of better quality control, packaging and superior marketing techniques. What that means is that developing nations must look at alternative ways of getting into the global market by selling products that are not produced by American and European farmers. For instance, since 90 per cent of all farm subsidies are awarded to American farms that produce wheat, maize, rice and soybeans, it would be downright dumb for developing nations to try to sell those products on the world market. The smarter thing to do is work the angle where American and European markets are vulnerable. One such area is in organic food products.

As more and more North Americans and Europeans learn about the dangers of pesticides and growth hormones, they are returning to what was once thought to be an outdated mode of producing food, that which allows the crop or the animal to live a natural life. Organic food has, therefore, become the rage in North America, Europe and Japan because it is equated with purity, natural goodness, healthy and clean living. (Passage omitted)

By using tonnes of fertilizers and GMO crops, North America and European farms are fast losing the capacity to grow organic food. Whereas, because they lagged somewhat behind in farm technology, many developing nations still offer pristine unadulterated soil on which to grow organic farm produce which is in high demand in health-conscious America and Europe.  

My argument, in a nutshell (no pun), is that developing nations must exploit to the maximum the fact that almost all their farm produce is currently certified organic. The reason being that the majority of poor farmers in Africa and South America cannot afford fertilizers and other modern farm technologies such as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and bovine growth hormones for fattening cows. Consequently, unlike European and American farmers now stuck with modern farming amenities, developing nations can take control of this burgeoning billion-dollar niche market by marketing their organic food products.

Think about it: except those in commercial farms, just about every chicken in Africa today is organic. The same can be said of pineapples, pawpaws, mangoes, oranges, avocados, passion fruit, beans, tea, coffee, vanilla and the list goes on. Suddenly, developing nations can compete on their own terms with slogans such as "Live longer, drink Uganda's organic coffee", "Healthy eating, healthy living with organic oranges from South Africa", or "Kenya's organic tea rejuvenates like no other".

The bottom line is that instead of trying to compete with Europe and America by selling products that European and American farmers are good at producing, governments of developing nations like Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania must move aggressively to protect, encourage and market organic farm products.

It's the license to mint dollars in our own backyard.

Source: The New Vision web site, Kampala, in English 8 Oct 03

BBC Monitoring
if you're a kiwi, shine up your marching shoes, and tell all your friends!

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