US claims it's not imposing GM on Africa (12/11/2005)

This article needs to be seen in the context of the PR campaign over biotech in Africa that Prof David Miller has raised with Reuters - see: 'Reuters falls for Biotech spin operation'.

The US embassy's claim that it is not imposing GMOs on Kenya was made at a meeting organised by the 'Africa Harvest' lobby group - CEO: Florence Wambugu. It is Reuters' uncritical repetition of Wambugu's PR claims that Prof Miller has complained about.

In fact, Wambugu's claims are all of a piece with the US embassy claims reported below. Their PR spin involves presenting the introduction of GMOs into Africa as something driven essentially by Africans, rather than as being driven by the US and its agencies or foreign corporations and their PR operatives.

Nothing could, of course, be further from the truth. Kenya has been targeted consistently by USAID and the biotech corporations since the days of the corrupt Moi adminstration. Like South Africa, Kenya has also become a centre for aggressive lobbying for GM, spurred on particularly by the biotech industry-backed ISAAA.

Wambugu has worked for ISAAA and has been at the heart of this aggressive biotech push ever since being selected and trained for that role by Monsanto and USAID.

In the article below both the US embassy and Wambugu emphasise that GM increases production. They provide no evidence to support this claim and the experience in Kenya, as elsewhere, has been the exact opposite.

The GM sweet potato project that Wambugu fronted - and that Monsanto-USAID used to introduce GMOs into Kenya - actually resulted in lower yields, rather than higher, when compared to conventional sweet potatoes - see 'Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails' (New Scientist, Vol 181 No. 2433, 7 February 2004)

But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

Kenya free to adopt or reject GMOs
By Elizabeth Mwai
The Standard, November 11, 2005

The US government is not imposing the Genetically Modified Organisms technology on Kenya, US Embassy in Nairobi said yesterday.

Agriculture Attache at the embassy, Kevin Smith, said for the short time the US has used the GMO technology, crop yields have improved.

Smith said Kenya should consider using the technology to boost crop production provided they put in place appropriate checks and balances.

"The decision to use GMO technology rests with individual countries," Smith said during a media Biotechnology conference organised by Africa Harvest at a Nairobi hotel.

The US is the largest practitioner of the GM technology with most food and cash crops production in the world’s biggest economy being produced under the practice.

However, the US has often differed with the European Union that has questioned the safety of genetically produced foods.

Most African countries have been caught up in the conflict as it got food aid in forms of GM grains from the US while it exported most of agricultural commodities to the EU.

Africa Harvest chief executive, Florence Wambugu, said there was need to use biotechnology initiatives more widely in order to boost production in the agricultural sector.

"[UK Prime Minister] Blair's chief scientific adviser denounced the United States' attempts to force the technology into Africa as a 'massive human experiment'. In a scathing attack on President Bush's administration, Professor David King also questioned the morality of the US's desire to flood genetically modified foods into African countries, where people are already facing starvation in the coming months."

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