Genetically Modified

SOUTH AFRICA: GMOs – Strategic Priority in Whose Interest?

The South African government is in the process of drafting regulations to police genetically modified organisms (GMO) as part of the national Consumer Protection Act, but environmental experts are worried the GMO section of the new Act, which was signed into law last April, will not be put into practice.

Brinjal, a traditional crop in India, is now the subject of a raging debate on genetically modified food. Credit: Ranjit Devraj/IPS

INDIA: Controversy Rages over Genetically Modified ‘Brinjal’

Scientists and activists say that but for the fact that the 'brinjal', also called 'eggplant' or 'aubergine', is native to India and a favourite on the table, the decision to allow commercial release of its genetically modified (GM) variety may have gone unremarked.

CHILE: War Over Seeds

Environmental organisations, organic farmers and indigenous people in Chile are opposed to a draft law that would expands the rights of the developers of new varieties of plants, while the government and seed companies argue that there will be no negative impacts on small farmers and biodiversity.

ENVIRONMENT: Monsanto, Dow Stacking the Deck, Critics Say

The most complex genetically engineered corn (maize) yet has been approved for use next year in Canada and the United States without its potential health and environmental risks being investigated, anti-biotech activists charged Wednesday.

Insect-resistant Bt corn varieties at a test site in Kenya. Credit:  Dave Hoisington/CIMMYT

AGRICULTURE: Biotechnology: Africa Must Not Be Left Behind

Africa must embrace agricultural biotechnology or risk being excluded from a major technological revolution that has had increased food production in the Europe, North America and Asia.

DEVELOPMENT: Investment in Small Farmers Crucial in Africa

Attempts to alleviate poverty and hunger and boost African economies are futile if the needs and potential of small-scale farmers in the region are ignored and the issue of trade barriers remains unaddressed.

Putting the right seeds in small farmers' hands is vital. Credit: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

AGRICULTURE-AFRICA: Seeking Diversity, Resilience and Farmer Control

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) claims that its "stress breeding", high-yield seed program and its emphasis on grassroots farmer input will boost agricultural production among poor, small scale farmers. But NGOs and environmentalists say AGRA’s Programme for Africa’s Seed System (PASS) is essentially a top-down, corporate driven approach that further threatens food security on the continent.

AFRICA: "Boost Development Through Labour-Intensive Farming"

Development in Africa should be boosted through labour-intensive production on small to medium-sized farms. To advance food security in Africa, governments should assist small farmers with credit lines and infrastructure while buffering them against fluctuations in world food prices.

Better seeds and business knowledge: how can small-scale farmers in Africa benefit? Credit:  Manoocher Deghati/IPS

AGRICULTURE-AFRICA: Questioning Old Traditions

Inefficient production, bad infrastructure, poor access to markets, a lack of capital investment: the challenges facing smallholder farmers across Africa are many. A 'green revolution' which appears to be gaining ground in Africa seeks to change all this.

ENVIRONMENT: GM Should Not Just be Dismissed, Nor Just Accepted

After a protracted court battle of seven years, a small South African environmental organisation won a major legal victory against the multinational agri-chemical and seed giant Monsanto.

Watering maize: GM is touted as key to improving food security; environmental activists urge caution; thus far Ghanaian consumers seem indifferent. Credit:  Louise Stippel/USAID

AGRICULTURE-GHANA: Few Signs of Concern as GM Crops Advance

Ghanaians are daily consuming genetically modified (GM) products imported by various traders without much care. However, as the government prepares to allow the planting of GM crops locally in a bid to boost food production, one non-governmental organisation, Friends of the Earth (FoE) Ghana is sounding the alarm.

HEALTH-ARGENTINA: Scientists Reveal Effects of Glyphosate

Glyphosate, the herbicide used on soybeans in Argentina, causes malformations in amphibian embryos, say scientists here who revealed the findings of a study that has not yet been published.

Maize kernels in the hands of a Cuban farmer Credit: Patricia Grogg/IPS

AGRICULTURE: GM Maize Finds Its Way to Cuba’s Fields

With little fanfare, genetically modified maize produced by Cuba's genetic and biotechnology engineering centre, CIGB, is being grown on test plots as part of a new project involving five of the Caribbean island nation's provinces.

Ears of maize at Yaluma, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.  Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

MEXICO: Cradle of Maize Rocked by Transgenics

Mexico has lifted the ban on experimental cultivation of transgenic maize imposed in 1999 in this country where the crop was first domesticated and shaped human culture. Biotech giants have put forward two dozen projects for approval and have announced investments of 382 million dollars up to 2012.

Burkinabé farmer irrigating crops from a hand-dug well: changing rainfall patterns could devastate small farmers. Credit:  Tugela Ridley/IRIN

CLIMATE CHANGE: New Thinking to Tackle Old Problems

Organic and eco-friendly farming can feed the world, contrary to the common belief that biotechnology and chemical-intensive farming are indispensable, modern strategies to increase production, agricultural experts say.

The Polistes wasp provides natural biocontrol to cotton fields by hunting down bollworms and other pests on the plant.  Credit: Dominik Hundhammer/Wikimedia Commons

DEVELOPMENT: U.N. Seeks a Green Revolution in Food

The food crisis that spilled over from last year could take a turn for the worse in the next decade if there are no explicit answers to a rash of growing new problems, including declining agricultural production, a faltering distribution network and a deteriorating environment worldwide.

CHILE: Maize Contaminated with Transgenics

The Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA) at the University of Chile has detected genetically modified organisms in four samples of conventional maize grown near fields where transgenic maize seeds are being produced for export.

Disease-free plantations are essential to the production of the five billion dollars of bananas sold annually. Credit:  Busani Bafana/IPS

AGRICULTURE: A Better Banana For Africa

With the eyes of a predator and attention to detail of a master craftsman, Benjamin Maina combs the 100-acre Khosla plantation for fallen banana trees. The good health of this crop is everything to the many people whose lives depend on trading banana -– the best selling fruit in the world.

Environmentalists fear GM varieties will contaminate Africa's prized sorghum heritage. Credit:


As Africa grapples with the question of food insecurity, biotechnology buffs seem to have an answer: genetically modified crops that could feed a continent vulnerable to famine and food deficits. But environmentalists warn of new dangers.

Support for smallholder farmers could be crucial for improving food security.  Credit:  IRIN

AGRICULTURE-SOUTHERN AFRICA: Investment, Information Keys To Productivity

Sustained investment in agriculture accompanied by effective and inclusive policies are key strategies for Southern Africa to address the global food crisis.

EUROPE: Transgenic Crops’ Days May Be Numbered

Pressure from the president of the European Commission has not succeeded in advancing the cause of transgenic crops. In spite of the power wielded by the executive organ of the European Union, the bloc’s member countries are gradually discontinuing the use of genetically modified seeds.

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