Responses to key issues raised by anti-GMO activists

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1. African regulators don’t have adequate expertise to effectively assess the safety of GM products in the continent.
2. African scientists do not have adequate equipment to fully assess safety of GM products.
3. The adoption of modern biotechnology in African countries violated the provisions of the Cartagena protocol that requires public information and participation in decision making. In African countries like Burkina Faso there was no open debate before going into biotechnology.
4. Biotechnology adoption in Africa is more about a deal between the government of the USA and African States than a real need in the field. There are more suitable, cheaper and environment-friendly crop production techniques for African producers.
5. Monsanto is bribing a wide range of stakeholders to impose its technology on African producers.
6. A study in Russia showed that eating GMOs could affect fertility in third generation.
7. A study by Seralini, a French scientist, showed that GMO consumption caused cancer in laboratory mice so the same could happen to human beings.
8. Studies commissioned by the World Health Organization recently concluded that the Roundup Ready active ingredient, glyphosate, is potentially carcinogenic. So eating crops like Round-up Ready maize, cotton oil, and soybeans could cause cancer.
9. Glyphosate destroys soils and all useful soil micro-organisms. So in the long term, it will degrade all soils and impoverish producers.
10. Studies showed that the Bt toxin that protects Bt crops is present in all Bt products so Bt products are not safe food and feed.
11. Most safety studies were done by the industry itself so these studies are not fully reliable. There are very few independent studies.
12. Biotechnology is a clever way the industry has come up with to control the seed production around the world and make producers more dependent.
13. GM seeds are not a solution to pest or weed control because pests and weed are developing resistance and the situation may become worse. Natural pesticides are the best solution.

Natural pesticides
African countries have tried organic farming with natural pesticides for decades but the continent is still suffering from lack of food and malnutrition.
Insect resistance
Insect resistance is a natural evolutionary process enhanced by repeated exposure of the pest to high toxins. It can arise due to the widespread use of GM crops, but also with the widespread use of any chemical pesticide on conventionally bred crops (natural or chemical). Insect resistance to Bt can be slowed down by growing non-Bt crops (refugia) together with Bt crops, so that the resistant insects mate with susceptible ones. The planting of refugia is required in all countries utilizing Bt crops. Other strategies that can slow down insect resistance include: stacking or pyramiding toxins that are distinct from each other, sterile moth releases, crop rotation and use of trap crops. Integrated pest management should not be neglected because no single method is sufficient.
Emergence of minor or secondary pests as key pests
Application of chemical pesticides typically kills all insects, including primary pests, secondary pests and beneficial insects. Bt is highly specific and does not kill all insects. When Bt crops are grown, the reduced use of chemical pesticides that would have killed the secondary pest can result in increased populations of secondary pests, as has occurred for a cotton pest in China. Integrated pest management practices such as crop rotation, biological control agents not targeted by the transgenes, tillage, intercropping, trap cropping should not be neglected by farmers.
Glyphosate resistant weeds have been reported in U.S, Australia, Malaysia, East Asia and Chile. Emergence of glyphosate resistant weeds can result from selection pressure from repeated glyphosate applications. The rare individuals that are resistant are the ones that are able to survive and produce seeds. Integrated weed management practices are important in managing evolution of herbicide resistant weeds. Such practices include: growing herbicide tolerant crops in rotation with conventional crops, tillage and use of other herbicides.

14. Neither modern biotechnology nor conventional agriculture is sustainable. There are better methods with a good combination of organic and no-tillage farming.
15. Biotechnology is more beneficial to big farmers not for smallholder producers. GMO producers will soon control most of the fertile lands around the globe and smallholder producers will have to give up their small lands and become just farm workers for large scale producers. Biotechnology is not a pro-poor technology.
16. It is morally unacceptable to insert animal genes to plants. These 2 worlds are separated by nature, why should we try to mix them?
17. With Bt cotton the quality of the lint and the length of the fiber are lower.
Jean Keberé, communications Officer / NEPAD Agency ABNE

See also : The Food Safety Section and Environmental Safety Issues

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