The SciDev.net "online resource" described below - "Agri-biotech in sub-Saharan Africa" - should be used with some caution.
To date the articles made available as part of this "resource" seem to almost systematically exclude - in terms of links and references to their reports - genuine African NGOs. And in the links provided as part of the resource, there seem to be none so far to the African Union's biosafety project and AU biotech policy documents - a curious oversight that may reflect the hostility from GM promoters to the AU's cautious existing policy.
In fairness, the links section does include links to a number of NGOs concerned about GM crops and their impact on Africa, even though the section listing "NGOs" at the moment seems to be dominated by industry front groups. To date the 5 links listed for "Nongovernmental organisations" include:
AgBioWorld - CS Prakash's hugely controversial pro-GM lobby group - described by SciDev.net as "used by many scientists, but ... also relevant to teachers, journalists and the general public". In fact this "NGO" has been shown to be not just a conduit for highly questionable industry PR, but to be intimately tied in to Monsanto's PR people and their activities.
Also listed as an NGO is the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) without any indication that this U.S.-centered, GM promotion and "technology transfer" agency has funding from the likes of Bayer, Cargill, Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta, or that leading biotech industry executives get to sit on its Board.
Another"NGO" liste is that Africa Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) - no mention that this is an ISAAA spin off.
Similarly, Africabio, which is listed in the "Advocates" section does not benefit from the billing given to it - in an article in the journal Nature, one of SciDev.net's "supporters" - as an organisation that is "fighting tooth and nail, often by somewhat controversial methods... to improve GM's image." Nor is there any mention of the biotech companies amongst AfricaBio's members.
SciDev.net will, of course, always be prone to attract suspicion regarding balance given a board for biotech that not only fails to contain a single GM sceptic but that is stuffed to the gills with hardline proponents.
New online resource: Agri-biotech in sub-Saharan Africa www.scidev.net/agribiotech/sub-saharan_africa
Read SciDev.Net's latest spotlight on the current status and future prospects for agricultural biotechnology in sub-Saharan Africa. The collection includes a review of the changing attitudes to biotechnology in the region and facts and figures outlining existing initiatives.
**Changing attitudes to biotechnology**
**Facts and figures**
Key stakeholders also debate controversial issues including:
**how best to achieve unified regulation in the region** www.scidev.net/agribiotech/sub-saharan_africa/biosafety_regulation
**what hopes there are for establishing a biosafety law in Kenya** www.scidev.net/agribiotech/sub-saharan_africa/kenyan_biosafety_bill
**whether Africa is ready for pharmaceutical crops** www.scidev.net/agribiotech/sub-saharan_africa/pharmaceutical_crops
The spotlight also introduces a selection of the Internet's most relevant and useful documents and websites.
For more information on GM and non-GM advances in agricultural biotechnology visit our agri-biotech dossier: www.scidev.net/agribiotech
Please pass this information to friends and colleagues who will find it a valuable resource. All our material is free to reproduce provided the organisation and author are credited.
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Dr. Sian Lewis
Commissioning Editor, SciDev.Net
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