Wambugu's myth-making exposed again (12/12/2007)

1.TC Banana not for small scale farmers, expert says
2.Biotech's deceptive fiction

NOTE: See item 2 for the relevance of the latest evidence on the limitations of 'biotech bananas' to the promotion of GM as a miracle solution for the problems of small farmers, particularly in terms of claims such as those of Kenyan scientist Florence Wambugu that GM crops are ideally suited to poor farmers because 'the technology is in the seed' and so you can ignore issues of infrastructure etc.

EXTRACT: 'programs such as the tissue culture banana project in some East African countries have demonstrated that biotechnology can have a positive impact on hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In some cases, rural farm incomes have tripled as a result of biotech techniques.' - Florence Wambugu, Statement on Biotechnology in Africa, submitted to the Committee on Agriculture of the U.S. House of Representatives (see item 2)


1.TC Banana not for small scale farmers, expert says
Written by Henry Neondo
Africa Science News Service, 11 December 2007 [extract only]

When Tissue Cultured banana was first released to farmers in the 1990s, small scale farmers gladly took to growing the crop. But the crop matures at the same time and farmers are neither able to market the produce nor able to satisfy demand for the generated market

The practice of small-scale farming does not augur well with tissue culture banana, an expert at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute has said. Speaking to journalists who had visited the National Horticultural Centre based at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) Thika, Dr Benjamin Chege said, for farmers to break even in high performing Tissue Culture (TC) banana, one needed to have a quarter of an acre on average, a minimum of 80 stems of bananas.

The future of TC banana, says Chege, lies in reaching out to farmers in areas where farmers still possess large chunks of land. 'Central Province should not be in the equation', he said.

Right now, farmers in eleven districts of Meru, Chuka, Muranga, Maragwa, Kiambu, Nyeri, Thika, Machakos, Bungoma, Kakamega and Vihiga are firmly into planting tissue cultured banana, most due to members of parliament from these areas using constituency development fund to set up outlets for tissue culture bananas.

But the problem, says Chege, is that the land holdings is too small as to give yields sufficient enough to develop, satisfy and sustain a market.

'Small scale production can never solve problems associated with effective production to meet demand'.

He added further that due to poor infrastructure, 80 percent of all banana transported to markets get wasted. This is partly due to poor roads, lack of equipment like storage and ripening facilities and poor means of marketing the banana crop


2.Biotech's deceptive fiction
GM Watch

Earlier this year the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation granted a consortium led by the lobby group Africa Harvest and its CEO, Dr Florence Wambugu, the better part of $16.9 million to develop a GM sorghum.

A key part of the Wambugu consortium is DuPont, the GM and chemicals giant. And this is not the first time that DuPont and Dr Wambugu have collaborated.

In mid-August, a subsidiary of DuPont's, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, put out a press release entitled: 'Harvesting Hope: Kenyan Farmers Celebrate First Banana Harvest Using New Growing Technology'. In it DuPont's Chairman and CEO, Charles O. Holliday, Jr, was quoted as saying, 'DuPont is proud to partner with Africa Harvest in bringing tissue culture banana technology to the Chura community'.

Dr Wambugu is also quoted in the press release, saying that tissue culture technology in Africa has increased banana productivity from 20 to 45 tons per hectare. For the typical Churan family, according to Wambugu, this remarkable increase in production can translate into a tripling of income - from the current average of $1 per day per family to as much as $3 per day per family.

'For these families, this additional income can mean the difference between sending their children to school or being forced to keep them home,' says Wambugu. 'It is important to understand that the difference tissue culture bananas make is far beyond the field.'

According to Wambugu, tissue cultured bananas are reversing a dire situation in Kenya. 'Banana production in this country has been in decline over the last 10 years,' she says. 'Yields can be reduced by up to 90 percent from using the same suckers on multiple farms, and this of course, means a major income loss for farmers.'

Elsewhere Dr Wambugu has written of an even longer decline in yields, 'This project was conceived in response to the rapid decline in banana (Musa) production experienced in Kenya over the last two decades.'

Dr Wambugu has also emphasised the importance of bananas as a staple crop in Kenyan agriculture, the centrality of this crop to small holder farmers and their incomes, and the important calorific contribution of bananas to rural people's diets in Kenya. (Wambugu and Kiome, Benefits of Biotechnology for Small-Scale Banana Producers in Kenya) http://assets.innogen.ac.uk/assets_innogen/dynamic/1121332705303/Innogen-Working-Paper-31-Final.doc

Against this disturbing background of a rapid decline of a key crop for food security in Kenya, Wambugu notes that the success that has already been attained by her tissue cultured banana project is 'incredible to say the least.'

Although tissue culture is a relatively u


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