Farming Initiative for Africa Launched (17/6/2004)


Don't be in any doubt as to what this African Agricultural Technology Foundation initiative to address "Africa's perennial food insecurity" is really about.

The Nairobi-based AATF was formed in July 2002 talking about a "public-private partnership designed to remove many of the barriers that have prevented smallholder farmers in Africa from gaining access to existing agricultural technologies that could help relieve food  insecurity and alleviate poverty."

However, the rice industry website Oryza.com explained the purpose of AATF more bluntly, "The goal of the AATF will be to work with governments, companies, non-governmental organizations, and research centers to negotiate the sales rights of genetically modified crops and bring new agricultural technologies to the African market." (Africa: Group to Promote GMO Sales, Oryza.com)

Needless to say, as well as getting money from the Rockefeller Foundation AATF gets money from USAID, it also receives support from the major biotechnology corporations including Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Agro Sciences and Syngenta. http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=163&page=A

It is also claimed that, "The AATF will be... led, managed and directed by Africans." However, AATF's board is chaired by Jennifer Thompson, the fervent biotech supporting sientist who came to prominence in South Africa's regulatory circles under its apartheid regime. Thompson is also on the board of the biotech-industry backed lobby groups ISAAA and AfricaBio. http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=170&page=A

Farming Initiative for Africa Launched
The East African Standard (Nairobi, Kenya)
June 17, 2004
Konchora Guracha
Nairobi, East Africa

An initiative was launched yesterday to increase productivity among Africa's small-scale farmers.

The African Agricultural Technological Foundation (AATF) plans to spearhead transfer of agricultural technology as a way of addressing Africa's perennial food insecurity.

Already, AATF has already showcased four out of the original eight areas of problems it identified as control of the devastating striga weed (wipes out tracts of African farmlands, depriving more than 100 million people of staple food), development of insect resistant maize, pro-vitamin A enhancement in maize and rice, and cowpea production.

"The foundation will facilitate the transfer of these technologies and make them available to farmers at the most reasonable cost. Our current focus is on food crops, but we will later target cash crops, and, possibly, livestock products," said Dr Eugene Terry, AATF implementing director.

Headed by Dr Mpoko Bokanga, a food scientist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the foundation is the result of a two-year consultation between African, North American and European scientists on the one hand and stakeholders on the other.

Agriculture minister Kipruto arap Kirwa said Africa should be given the opportunity to make informed decisions on the use and application of genetically modified organisms and agricultural technologies.

"Of particular attention in the range of available technologies is the question of biotechnology, and, specifically, genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Africans should be accorded the opportunity to decide what to do about some of these technologies," said Kirwa.

At the same time, the minister criticised opponents of agricultural technologies like GMOs, saying some spoke from a position of misinformation.

"The issue of technology transfer always attracts debate at different levels. For a number of us, especially, the small-holder farmers, technology paints an image of complicated science that should be approached with suspicion."

He added: "My stand is that technological solutions to human problems should be approached soberly and with as little emotion as possible. It is imprudent to make generalised statements on these issues."

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