African journalist honoured for blowing whistle on GM hype (5/1/2005)

It's great to see among the award-winning African journalists below, Gatonye Gathura - the Kenyan jornalist who blew the whistle on one of the most hyped GM projects in the world.

The Monsanto-World Bank-USAID GM sweet potato project in Kenya has generated literally thousands of column inches of PR without a scrap of convincing evidence to support it.

But Gatonye Gathura's article in the Kenyan press, "GM Technology fails local potatoes", exposed the reality - the results of 3 years of field trials showed the GM virus-resistant sweet potatoes produced poor yields and weren't even virus resistant!

Gathura's arrticle led on to wider coverage of the project's failure, including by the New Scientist, "Monsanto's showcase project in Africa fails" (New Scientist, Vol 181 No. 2433, 7 February 2004)

The GM sweet potato project has been used as a showcase to promote GM as the saviour of Africa, not least by the scientist who has been called Monsanto's apostle in Africa - Dr Florence Wambugu.

On the strength of the supposed success of the GM sweet potato, Wambugu has written for the science journal Nature, for The New York Times, and has appeared on CNN and on various American TV shows. In an issue of Forbes magazine in December 2001, Wambugu was named one of fifteen people from around the globe who will "reinvent the future."

All of this was based on a lie.

For more on the GM sweet potato hype, which even included the falsification of information on yields, see:

For Gatonye Gathura's original article in Kenya's "Daily Nation", see:

Laureates of the Kalam Awards 2004

Two journalists: a Zambian and a Kenyan win the Kalam Awards 2004 on consumer issues
Press release

The recipients of the first edition of the Kalam Awards are Brenda Zulu from Zambia (first prize) and Gatonye Gathura from Kenya (second prize) for their outstanding articles, respectively, on tele-health and failed experiments on genetically modified organisms in Africa.

Organised by Consumers International Africa Office (CI-ROAF), the Kalam Awards celebrate excellence in consumer journalism in the continent. The awards acknowledge African journalists' best productions and seek to encourage the publication and reporting of impacting articles on consumer issues throughout Africa

A multidisciplinary jury examined over 35 items and articles proposed by 17 candidates from 10 countries in the categories of print press, radio and television. After deliberations, the jury decided not to allocate the radio and TV awards.

Brenda Zulu is an independent journalist and a correspondent for the Africa Woman Newspaper. She received the award for her article called "Tele-health set to boost maternal care" first published in the Africa Woman Newspaper and reproduced in Zambia, in Zimbabwe, in Malawi, in Nigeria, in Ghana, in Uganda and in Tanzania.

When attributing the first prize to her, Sherif Evalide Seye, the President of the jury, said "Brenda Zulu's article highlights, in a concise and
direct manner, new opportunities available to consumers on access to health services, which is a basic consumer right." Thanks to tele-health,
"clinicians will now be able to monitor and track patients, see their entire history at a glance and analyse the outcomes", Brenda Zulu forewarns in her article.

Tele-health has been used in Zambia, especially in cases where doctors at the University teaching hospital had to carry out an operation to separate Siamese twins, she said in a separate occasion.

Gatonye Gathura won the second prize on the basis of his article titled "GM Technology fails local potatoes" published in the Kenyan daily "Daily Nation" ( Gatonye's article sums up the outcome of the GM trials on local potatoes in Kenya, which, he says, have failed. "US biotechnology, imported three years ago, has failed to improve Kenya's sweet potato. This has confirmed critic's fears that bio-engineered techniques tried elsewhere may not be replicated in Africa with similar results" has concluded warts and all Gatonye Gathura in the article.

Both laureates will receive US$500 in cash, a laptop computer and an all-expenses-paid return trip to Gaborone, Botswana to take part in the Regional Dialogue between government agencies in charge of consumer protection and African consumer organizations scheduled from 07 to 11 February 2005.

In addition, the jury addressed its special congratulations to Rolando Martins, a journalist from Cape Verde for his dedication and his voluntary work in favour of the Regional Association for Consumer Protection in Cape Verde (ADECO). The jury’s congratulatory message acknowledges his contribution as the coordinator of the radio programme "Consumers' Voice" broadcast by the RTC, the Radio and Television broadcasting agency in Cape Verde.

The jury included the following members:

Sherif Evalide Seye, Director of Strategy and Development at the Pan African News Agency or PANA (President of the jury); Amadou Niang (Director of Internal Trade and Commissioner for Economic Investigations at the Ministry of Trade in Senegal); Ndeye Soukeye Gueye (Director of family matters at the Ministry of Family matters, Social Development and National Solidarity of Senegal);
Sannah Tepitapia (Editor-in-Chief for Health at the Pan African News Agency - PANA) Taoufik Ben Abdallah, Researcher, responsible for the Secretariat of the African Social Forum, 2001 - 2004 ; El Bachir Sow, journalist Editor-in-Chief for the Senegalese daily "Le Soleil".

THE ORGANISERS: Consumers International Africa Office (CI-ROAF)

In Africa, the rapid growth of the consumer movement has allowed improved consumer rights and awareness. Consumers International Office for Africa (CI-ROAF) co-ordinates and provides support through research, information networks, publications, regional and international seminars, workshops, etc. to more than 120 organisations in 46 countries in Africa. The main mission of the ROAF is to build and develop the consumer movement in Africa and to represent consumers at regional and international fora.

To fulfill that mission, the organisation conducts researches on consumer issues, encourages and promotes the cross fertilisation of experiences between its members through information networks, publications, regional and international seminars, workshops, etc.

The launch of the Kalam Awards benefited from the technical, financial and political support of several African institutions such as the Pan African News Agency (PANA) and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

For more information, please contact:
Guy-Patrick Massoloka
Tel: (+263-4) 302-283 extension 13;
E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]
Or visit our website:


Back to the Archive