Monsanto’s Cotton Rejected Again: Burkina Faso Brings Back Indigenous Varieties

cotton-680x330By Christina Sarich

Monsanto has been trying to take over Africa’s cotton for decades with their patented, genetically modified (GM) seed. Not without irony, Burkina Faso is just one of the African countries that has been wary of any of Monsanto’s GM seed, adding to the credo, ‘better off dead, than GM fed,’ when it came to accepting U.S. food aid that was primarily genetically altered. Africa’s biggest cotton grower in Burkina Faso is now phasing out Monsanto’s GM cotton and returning to indigenous varieties by 2018, due to concerns of cross-contamination of local crops and the less-than-stellar performance of Monsanto’s Bt variety.

This move by a West African country is noteworthy because Africa has been the unnamed poster child for promoting genetically modified crops as a means to end hunger and stop poverty by biotech interests. Investors like Bill Gates have donated millions to try to help GM crops catch on throughout the continent, stating that genetically modified crops could ‘end world hunger by 2030.’

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Strangely, not a single GM crop has proven to do such a thing — with failing yields, superweeds, cross-contamination of indigenous crop varieties, and a host of health problems associated with GM seed, which was created to help sell herbicides. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops were named as such because they could supposedly withstand being sprayed copiously with Roundup, which has now been deemed a probable carcinogen in numerous studies.

Farmers in Burkina Faso and other other African nations have been complaining that the fibers in Monsanto’s cotton are shorter and weaker than traditional cotton crop fibers, and yields have been disappointing; but should we be surprised?

The company has a history of trying to muscle its way into large cotton economies — India is a perfect example of yet another massive landscape where Monsanto’s patented Bt cotton failed. Indian farmers paid millions in royalties to the company only to find that their local varieties were compromised through cross-pollination; and many farmers went bankrupt trying to grow seed that did not perform well, as it was promised to. Fortunately, African farmers have this cautionary tale with which to make the decision to ditch Monsanto’s GM seed.

The farmers are also seeking compensation from Monsanto for the ill-performing crop. A group comprised of farmers, government officials, and private investors is denouncing their contract with Monsanto and holding the company accountable for false advertising.

Burkina Faso’s farmers have given Monsanto more than seven years to prove their GM cotton is worth the premium they pay for the seed, and they are unimpressed.  In just a year’s time, Monsanto will no longer have business in at least one African country.

This article (Monsanto’s Cotton Rejected Again: Burkina Faso Brings Back Indigenous Varieties) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Christina Sarich and If you spot a typo, please email the error and the name of the article to [email protected]. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Kimberly Vardeman

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