Tanzania Blocks GMO Field Trials Again Amid Fear of Seed Instability

By Phillip Schneider

Tanzania’s recently appointed Agricultural Minister has announced a second cancellation of field research trials of genetically modified maize in order to preserve local diversity of African seed.

In 2018, Tanzania’s previous Agricultural Minister Mathew Mtigumwe put a temporary ban on all GMO field trials due to similar concerns. However, a leading agricultural officer at the Mikocheni Research Institute later refuted that statement, leading some to speculate that there exists a stark divide in the Tanzanian government on the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

If this recent call is indeed true, it is most welcome as it will end the field trials of GM cassava, ostensibly to confer resistance to the cassava mosaic virus, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) funded drought tolerant GM maize field trials, under the auspices of the Water for Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), rebranded as TELA, which have been going on for the past 10 and four years, respectively.” – Sabrina Masinjila, Research and Advocacy officer at the African Center for Biodiversity (ACB)

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Although biotechnology companies laud genetic engineering as a way to increase food security and nutritive value, the process of genetic modification involves creating an identical clone which is used by every grower of a particular crop. This leads to a total lack of genetic diversity that can put a crop in danger if it happens to be vulnerable to a widespread disease, such as in the case of bananas two years ago.

In India, farmers committed suicide at an unprecedented rate of one every 30 minutes in 2009 due to massive crop failure many believe resulted from the use of GMO seed which was marketed as safe but ultimately unsuitable to local weather conditions. Monsanto, a key developer of genetically modified seeds, denies that it had anything to do with the suicides.

We applaud the Tanzanian government for this bold move. The cancellation of GMO trials is a bold move to preserve the nation’s biodiversity, preserve local species, as well as protect the environment and the people,” said Nnimmo Bassey, a Nigerian environmental activist and director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).

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This move by Tanzania’s current Agricultural Minister, Professor Adolf Mkenda, has generated applause from environmentalists in Africa and around the world.

In a statement, Masinjila concluded:

The project is purported to provide Tanzanian small-scale farmers with GM varieties that are drought tolerant and insect resistant, including resistance to the Fall Armyworm (FAW). However, in our multiple shocks in Africa series of publications, we argue that the FAW – now endemic to Africa – is a result of ecological imbalance and false solutions, including the use of GM insect resistant maize, which have longer-term detrimental consequences for the health of farming systems and of people.

The misguided and dangerous WEMA/TELA project appears to be in its final death throes. With the South African authorities rejecting a stacked GM drought tolerant variety in 2019 and Tanzania cancelling the WEMA/TELA trials twice, there is no doubt that African governments are waking up to the biotech industry’s false promises, as cautioned constantly by food sovereignty and social movements on the continent, since the project begun more than 20 years ago.

Indeed, even after many years of funding by BMGF, there has been nothing to show for this project in the implementing countries, which raises pertinent questions about where the money is going and who is benefitting from these typical false solutions.

“Without the necessary action, there will be huge violations of farmers’ rights, which are inextricably linked to human rights, through the failure to protect their seed and populations and ultimately the natural food resources they are in control of.”

Phillip Schneider is a staff writer for Waking Times and Blacklisted News. If you want to see more of his work, you can like his Facebook Page, follow him on the free speech social network Minds, or become a contributor via Patreon.

This article (Tanzania Blocks GMO Field Trials Again Amid Fear of Seed Instability) originally appeared at Phillip Schneider and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement.

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