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Opinions of Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Columnist: Amponsah, John

Monsanto-Cargill promoting GM in Ghana - Update


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by John Amponsah

This article is a follow-up to the first article I wrote in March on the subject, entitled Monsanto-Cargill promoting GM foods in Ghana? in response to the original article about GM that was published on Ghanaweb in February 2009.

ISAAA, Cargill and Monsanto are one and the same organization

ISAAA stands for International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech applications. It is a front NGO for a US multinational company called Cargill which is big in the GM agri-business. Cargill and Monsanto are one and the same umbrella company, after a merger occurred in the late 90's, Monsanto tends to use its name when it works with the 'bigger clients', countries with big economies. Cargill has focused on Africa for the GM efforts of the umbrella company. In my first article I mentioned that Monsanto is certainly aware of the activities of the ISAAA. Dr Clive James who is the founder and chair of ISAAA works closely with Monsanto and so Monsanto know what exactly ISAAA is up to, as one would expect. It is safe to say that Monsanto-Cargill is definitely working in Ghana through the influence of their NGO ISAAA and associated local lobby groups and consultancies who are likely on the payroll of Monsanto-Cargill.

The Debate centered round Biosafety laws

The Biosafety law can be seen as a tricky one. Proponents for the law say may say that Biosafety is required for the proper implementation of GM crops in fields to prevent for instance the incidence of cross-contamination. Now one may ask, if GM is as safe as proponents claim to say it is, why the need for biosafety laws?

The African Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Platform (ABBPP) is actually a lobby group that promotes creating Biosafety legislation in African countries in order to allow GM to 'legitimately' operate in those countries. The question again is, why should Ghana or other countries need to have Biosafety when in the past we have not needed it? Again, why have we not previously needed Biosafetly laws? The answer is that we are being told we need these laws now for the proper implementation of GM. That suggests that GM foods are toxic, while natural/traditional and organic methods are not, and hence do not need this further layer of safety. The Biosafety law campaign is one that has the guise of creating safety protocols for GM implementation when in fact, in an insidious way, it actually legitimizes the presence of GM in the respective country.

Walter Alhassan speaking on behalf of Monsanto-Cargill?

Ghanaians should bear in mind one of the main people who is responsible for the long, quiet push for GMO in Ghana is a man known as Walter Alhassan. Let us once again take statements made during the February 2009 Alhassan GM press release. The 'Report on Global Status of Biotech' a centerpiece document used in his press release in February 2009, is actually an ISAAA (and therefore a Monsanto-Cargill) document. In fact, Prof Alhassan is literally being a mouthpiece for ISAAA chairman Dr Clive James when it was noted in the original article:

"He [Alhassan] noted that with the current low levels of agricultural productivity, there was the likelihood that Africa would not meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of poor and hungry by 2015".

Compare that statement to one made by Clive James (head of ISAAA and a Monsanto-Cargill man) here and I quote:

”If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of cutting hunger and poverty in half by 2015,” says Clive James, ISAAA founder and the author the just-released report, “biotech crops must play an even bigger role in the next decade.”

GM field trials in Ghana - May 2009

The Biosafety laws are presently before parliament, however GM field trials began this May 2009 due to previous legislation. Once again, Walter Alhassan's name has popped up in relation to GM, supporting 'the cause', as usual. This time, this is some of what he said about GM crops versus non-GM crops,

"GM crops are safer than non-GM crops because they go through stringent measures. Those who have expressed misgivings about it are only doing so because of fears of the unkownn".

This is not true, this statement can be called (at best) misleading, if not worse. Whichever biotech scientist says something like this is either not aware of the adverse effects of GM or may be aware of reports but prefers not to pay attention to them because of an agenda.

Germany wins over Monsanto, Zambia says 'NO' to GM

In the first article I wrote on this subject, I pointed out comments that were made by a number of individuals on the internet as to the astute nature of the German people. The exact nature of those comments were to the effect that 'Germans have once again proved to be among the smartest people in the world for rejecting GM'. I quoted an article that outlined Monsanto's uphill battle in Germany. That was in March. It turns out that in April, the Germans did actually end up banning Monsanto's GM corn from their country. The fight involved a coalition of activists, farmers and parliamentarians. Austria, Hungary, Greece, France and Luxembourg have also made the same move.

Right here on our own continent, the Zambian government and people said 'NO' to GM when it was being introduced into their country. This was a prudent move. I suppose you can say that the Zambians are among the smart African people to reject GM. Actually it is not that Ghanaians are not smart, since there are Ghanaians who are actively campaigning against the adoption of GM in Ghana. It is more so due to the Ghanaian forces at play (consultancies and lobby groups and those who support them) who do the work for these big multinationals by pushing GM legislation which is meant to lead to the (eventual) full implementation of GM in Ghana.

The Usual Pro-GM arguments are Flawed, Misleading, Suspect or Deceptive

One of the main arguments of GM is that adoption of this technology can help stave off hunger in Africa. Africa is often presented as being needy for the help of the west so it is sometimes convenient to show some starving people who need help. According to the way this argument is presented, Africa is the place that is most in need of this GM technology. GM can save Africans from hunger!

Well first of all it should be said that many, if not most GM plantations cover only four crops: soy, corn, cotton and canola. What is even worse is that often GM soy that gets cultivated on plantations goes not to feed hungry people but animals in foreign countries, the cultivation of GM soy in the respective developing country being a cheap way for the multinational company to get plant food that is then used to feed animals.

The increased-food-production argument sounds good in theory but in practice it is flawed. More realistically, GM implementation and production has nothing saintly going for it but rather is about the same age-old thing: MONEY. People sometimes think that adopting GM technology will help solve hunger problems but as I said in my first article, it is simply not the case. The motive was, is and will remain to make as much profit for the promoting companies.

Scientific Evidence on the Destructive effects of GM

Recent findings in India, a country struggling with its decision to adopt GM technology, shows how GM cotton (Monsanto variety) that has been cultivated by farmers actually kills the soil by killing the natural microorganisms in the soil that contribute to the circle of life (decomposition, creation of humus etc). The article states that:

"The ISAAA in its recent release has stated that there are 7.6 mha of Bt-cotton in India. This means 7.6 mha [i.e. mega-hectares] of dying soils. The impact of GMO’s on soil organisms is not commonly studied. This is a vital lacunae because Bt toxin crops such as Mon 810 corn [i.e. Monsanto 810] or Bt-cotton or Bt Brinjal have serious impact on beneficial soil organisms"

One of the ways to learn is to observe the mistakes of others so as not to repeat them yourself. Ghana does not have to have its soil potency diminished or destroyed by planting toxic Monsanto 810 corn (the same version of corn Germany and 5 other EU countries have banned) to learn the same lesson, that GM plantations are hazardous to humans and to the ecosystem. Some of the Indian farmers who lost their crops, their fields and their livelihood committed suicide.

There are however other soil and harvest-related ills associated with GM. Recently in South Africa, Monsanto was force to provide compensation when 82,000 hectares (that's a lot!) of corn failed to produce any seeds. That is, the cultivation largely failed to produce any seeds, although the crops looked good standing on the fields. That's what the unnatural thing called GMO can produce for those who embrace it -- Looks good on the outside (externally) but that is artificial, since th externally beautiful crop is pure poison on the inside.

CONCLUSION

The people of Ghana have a right to made fully aware of the dangers faced with accepting to take up the implementation of GM in Ghana. The argument forwarded by proponents of GM that their technology will help alleviate hunger is at best suspect and at worst deceptive and outright unethical. Instead of alleviating hunger, GM plantations have for instance been shown to be used to produce animal feed for animals in other countries. GM business is ultimately about making money. The destructive effects of GM cultivation to the soil and to seed production as seen by countries who have tried out the GM experiment should be a lesson to Ghana and a warning not to make the same mistakes others have made. Ghanaian farmers do not have to experience suicide out of desperation as has happened with farmers in India for the message to be brought home. The government of Ghana does not have to get involved in litigation between individuals and multinational companies like Monsanto-Cargill, as has happened in India.

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