Hearing continues today at the Accra Human Rights Court over a lawsuit involving Food Sovereignty Ghana & 3 ors Vs National Biosafety Committee & 4 ors. Dr. Jonathan Latham, the second scientific witness of Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), is set to testify at the Human Rights Court, on Thursday, 31st March, 2022.
Jonathan R Latham, PhD is co-founder and Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project and the Editor of Independent Science News. Dr Latham is also the Director of the Poison Papers project which publicizes documents of the chemical industry and its regulators. Dr. Latham holds a Masters degree in Crop Genetics and a PhD in Virology. He was subsequently a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has published scientific papers in disciplines as diverse as plant ecology, plant virology, genetics and genetic engineering. Dr Latham talks frequently at international events and scientific and regulatory conferences on the research conducted by the Project. He has written for Truthout, MIT Technology Review, the Guardian, Resilience, Salon.com, and many other magazines and websites.
FSG’s lawsuit is against the commercial release of Bt cowpea and NEWEST rice. As at the time of going to court, this was the first time human beings were going to be asked to eat this kind of genetically modified cowpeas. Even though the NBA of Nigeria has since authorised its release, the questions concerning its effect on human health, the environment and especially non-target organisms persist.
According to the proponents of the Bt cowpeas, such as the AFTAA, “The Bt bacterium is sold under different names and has been used in organic farming for over 50 years to control insect pests.” Dr. Latham’s witness statement indicates that the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is used in the Bt cowpea is itself genetically modified, and far more toxic than the naturally occurring ones. Dr. Latham is expected to testify that “in side-by-side tests Cry toxins produced by GMO crops usually had greater toxicological activity (towards pests and non- pests) than those produced in bacteria (Latham et al., 2017).
This result was confirmed for two Cry toxins described in a Monsanto patent. In US Patent No. 6,060,594 Monsanto describes how they made mutations in a natural Cry toxin called Cry3b. The mutations made this natural toxin into, in their own words, a “super toxin” (English et al., 2000). One such super toxin was subsequently used to make the commercial GMO maize MON863. Another was used to make GMO maize MON88017. The Cry toxin in MON863 was, according to the patent, 7.9-fold more active than the natural version. These enhanced toxins, claimed the patent, “have the combined advantages of increased insecticidal activity and concomitant broad spectrum activity.” Of course, “broad spectrum activity” is a highly undesirable and concerning outcome from the point of view of preserving non-target species. Monsanto did not share this finding with the US Environmental Protection Agency.
What do these findings mean for the introduction of GMO cowpea containing a Cry1Ab toxin? The answer is simple: that one cannot rely for GMO safety on tests of Cry1Ab produced in a bacterium. Nor can one rely on tests of Cry1Ab produced in other crops. The effects of GMO cowpea on the human population, the livestock, and its ecosystems can only be tested by feeding that exact GMO crop to whatever potentially affected species Ghana wishes to safeguard. Specific tests are therefore necessary to show that GMO cowpea is safe to use under the conditions found in Ghana.
These biosafety tests, when performed, should specifically take into account 1) the multiple uses of cowpeas in Ghanaian cooking practices and their regional variations, 2) the multiple uses of cowpeas in Ghanaian agriculture and their regional variations, and 3) that cowpea interbreeds with wild relatives and that therefore GMO traits will inevitably escape into wild and semi-natural areas and will persist there, likely forever. It is my understanding that Ghana has certain legal obligations under the terms of the Cartagena Protocol and that the scientific observations mentioned above imply that unless such factors are taken into account Ghana will not have fulfilled those obligations.”
Dr. Latham will be giving his evidence today by zoom at the Accra Human Rights Court, at 2.00pm UTC.
For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!
Edwin Kweku Andoh Baffour
Communications Directorate, FSG
Contact: +233 207973808
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org