While Bill Gates Wants Africa to Embrace Industrial GM Food, Italy Fines Franken-Maize Growing Farmer


photo: Peter Blanchard via flickr

Interesting GM food media intersection in the past two days: Reuters reports that an Italian court has fined a farmer for illegally growing GM maize, cultivation of which is banned in Italy; meanwhile, in The Guardian John Vidal rightly raises the question of why is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is so heavily pushing GM-led industrial agriculture in Africa and aligning itself with Monsanto and Cargill. Gates Into Monsanto and Cargill for $33 Million
Vidal gives a blow-by-blow account of the Gates Foundation's $23 million investment in Monsanto, a market increase over the past six months and its $10 million teaming with Cargill to promote massive industrial-scale cultivation of GM soya in Mozambique.

Rightly questioning whether an export-led, GM-based industrial agriculture model--the environmental and social problems of which are, putting it mildly, overwhelming--is really the best thing for Africa, Vidal sums up:

The fact that Cargill is a faceless agri-giant that controls most of the world's food commodities and Monsanto has been blundering around poor Asian countries for a decade [TH note: farmer suicides plus increasing pesticide pollution and water table depletion in India...] giving itself and the US a lousy name for corporate bullying. Does Gates know it is danger of being caught up in their reputations, or does the foundation actually share their corporate vision of farming and intend to work with them more in the future?

Big-Ag Partnership Consistent With Gates' High-Technocentric Tendencies
Take it as written that when it comes to trying to promote improvements in health care around the world that the Gates Foundation does some great work. Their apparent commitment to the cause seems genuine. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that Vidal's second point bears out and Gates gets further in bed with big-ag.

It would actually be quite typical for the the high-technocentric vision that Bill Gates has espoused again and again--and particular when it comes to renewable energy and climate change, pretty much is myopically misinformed. The real Green Revolution that Africa, Asia and the rest of the world needs isn't GM-led but is diversified, is largely organic, and isn't based on assuming long distance exported food is the best way to go.

African GM Crop Promotion is Corporate Colonialism, Thinly Veiled
But back to Italy: No doubt there's someone objecting to Vidal's (and my) objections here on the grounds that there's some level of cultural colonialism involved. Why should we restrict development of Africa along the lines that produced so much wealth in the global North? That's too big an objection to unpack and debunk all at once, but it is worth pointing out that it's seems disturbingly retrograde, itself somehow corporate-colonial, to push GM industrial ag in Africa when a number of European Union nations have banned GM crops and when the introduction of GM food crops in India has been halted. Such things are OK in the mythical 'over there'.

The facts of the fine: A judge in the town of Pordenone has fine the farmer in question €25,000 ($34,000) for growing Monsanto's MON 810 maize, contaminating nearby fields in the process, and all in violation of Italy's current ban on GM crops. Reuters notes that although public opinion of GM crops in Italy is largely opposed to them, the current ban is temporary as rules are developed on how to manage co-existence of GM and non-GM crops.

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More on GM Crops:
Ireland Says Not In This Country: Bans Genetically Modified Crops
Genetically Modified Foods "Biggest Environmental Disaster of All Time": Prince Charles
India Suspends First GM Food Crop Introduction - Environment Minister Wants More Tests
GMO Bans, Laws, and Labels From Around the World

Tags: Africa | Agriculture | Genetic Engineering | GMO | Italy