AGRA, led by Kofi Annan, has called the opinions of Ghana’s farmers a farce. AGRA’s most recent report rudely dismisses anyone with concerns about GMOs as having “fear of the unknown”. This comes at a time that the Economic Justice Network (EJN) of Ghana is organizing a two-day national seminar on trade and investment policies and our socio-economic and political development. It is our hope that the seminar will find an appropriate response to this insult to Ghana’s farmers and civil society, and the dangers GMOs and patented seeds pose to economic justice and the health of our nation. The farmers of Ghana and Africa have expressed skepticism about the value and safety of GMOs. When you disregard and insult the people you claim to be helping, your intention is clearly not to help. Your intention is something quite different. You can only help someone if you listen to what they say and respond to what they tell you they need. Ghana’s farmers are not asking for patented seeds and GMOs. Seed patents are the reason for GMOs. Patents allow giant foreign corporations to own the seeds used by all the farmers in a country.
Patented seeds are the latest tool to take wealth from Africa. Patented seeds mean that by law, farmers are not permitted to save their own seeds for replanting. The seed market eventually becomes limited to foreign corporate-patented seeds, which must be bought new from the agents of foreign corporations every year. Farmers who are caught selling farm-saved seeds or indigenous seeds can face fines and even imprisonment. Does this sound crazy and wildly improbable to ever happen in Ghana? We assure you, this is what GMOs lead to. Just ask farmers in India, Brazil, Canada, Columbia and the US! In countries that have adopted these patented seed laws, promoted by the US Embassy, the G8, Monsanto, Syngenta, etc, their own governments are taking indigenous seeds from farmers and destroying them. In Columbia, hundreds of tons of seeds have been destroyed. Seventy tons of rice seed in Huile province alone. In Canada, farmers have been successfully sued by Monsanto because patented seeds somehow entered their conventional fields. Those who seize and destroy farmers’ seeds cannot claim to want to feed the world. Their true motive is to increase the control of seeds, for the profit of their shareholders.
GMOs and patented seeds in Ghana will be particularly devastating to women. Many women are small-scale farmers and farm-hands in our rural areas. They are the majority of wholesale and retail traders of food, in our urban areas. As first in the line of contact, they will be disproportionately affected by the chemicals and unknown genetic effects of GMOs. AGRA, Monsanto, and Gates have directly stated their objective to create a displacement of people from rural to urban areas, and to shift to corporate monoculture agriculture. If we think current conditions in Accra, Kumasi etc. are grim, the subsequent rise in slums and attendant increase in crime as a result of this engineered exodus will have the greatest impact on the health and safety of women and their families.
In Africa AGRA is trying to roll out the debt-driven system of agriculture that has put so many hundreds of thousands of Indian small holder farmers out of business and led to their suicides. When indebted farmers are forced to borrow money to buy new seeds every year, price fluctuations driven by weather, market speculation, and other forces greatly increase risk and if things go wrong, can devastate the economies of entire regions. That is the purpose of this agricultural model, not an unintended effect. Furthermore, it makes more land available to foreign corporations.
A good question to ask when looking at GMOs and patented seeds is, in the phrasing of Kofi Annan, are they uniquely African? That is, how much does the program rely on imports, and how much does it rely on Ghanaian seeds, materials, tools, manufacturing etc. If the program imports, how long will it continue to import? At what point will imports become unnecessary. At what point will it become independent and uniquely Ghanaian, uniquely African? With GMOs and patented seeds, the answer is “never”.
GMO patented seeds offer no scientifically established lasting benefits. They are not more productive. They are not more nutritious. They increase the use and toxicity of pesticides and herbicides over time. They poison plants, animals, humans, earth, air, and water. They are outdated science. Their ONLY value is in lining the bank accounts of giant corporations and corporate shareholders. The Gates Foundation, the main funder of AGRA is also a major shareholder in Monsanto, one of the largest GMO corporations.
Laws permitting GMOs were passed through Ghana’s parliament in a most unfortunate and undemocratic manner. There was no information provided to the public and no public discussion. It appears this was done with the coaching and encouragement of the US Embassy, the UK, and other members of the G8. We know from the Wikileaks cables the U.S. government threatens nations who oppose Monsanto’s GMO crops with military-style trade wars. GMO and seed patent laws were not passed in response to the needs or demands of Ghana’s citizens. It was only after the laws began to be implemented that the Ghanaian public began to discover what is going on.
Patented seeds are a tool for a 21st century form of colonial exploitation. They are designed for the extraction of wealth from Africa for the profits of rich global corporations AGAIN! Patented seeds are a tool to move wealth upward, and out of public hands, into the private bank accounts of the already super rich.
Patented seeds are a tool of economic injustice, a tool of social engineering to increase inequality. In public- private partnerships taxpayers are paying their governments to assist giant corporations to take money from their pockets and redistribute it to wealthy corporate shareholders. In the course of this upward movement of wealth, agricultural diversity is devastated, the land, air and water are poisoned, and people are left with no food and no livelihoods.
Ghana’s farmers and African farmers do not fear the unknown, they fear the well known – the brutal coercion agribusiness corporations, supported by Western elites who get funding from these companies, apply to extract the wealth of Africa for private profits that have no benefit for Africans. By legalizing GMOs and patented seeds, Ghana’s taxpayers are paying their own government to take Ghanaians’ money and give it to those who already own most of the world’s wealth.
Nana Ama Amamoo
Director, Research and Information Department,
Food Sovereignty Ghana
Chandrasekaran, Kirtana, & Bassey, Nnimmo. (2013/6/7). “G8′s new alliance for food security and nutrition is a flawed project: The UK government claims to be commited to ending hunger yet supports a scheme that, billed as good for Africa, is anything but.” The Guardian, June 7.
Monbiot, George. (2013/6/10). “Africa, let us help – just like in 1884: From the Conference of Berlin to today’s G8, ‘helping’ Africans looks suspiciously like grabbing their resources.” The Guardian, June 10: