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Opinions Thu, 20 Jun 2013

Dangers of Genetically modified food in Ghana

THE DANGERS OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD IN GHANA/AFRICA: CASE STUDIES DU PONT & PIONEER HI-BRED SEEDS


Compatriots,


This article is about the dangers of Genetically Modified Food (GMF) - also called Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). It is in response to a Ghanaweb article titled, "Government to subsidise certified seed for 2012 farming season". The gist of that post was, "Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has announced that government is on the verge of adding certified seeds and liquid fertiliser in the farmers’ subsidy package for the 2012 cropping season" (General News 2012-01, www.ghanaweb.com).


From the unset I must reveal the crucial danger posed to all of us by GMFs. Jeffrey Smith states, "Although no studies have evaluated if antibiotic or Bt-toxin genes transfer...Recent health studies provide growing evidence of harm from GMOs: GM Corn Damages Liver and Kidneys. Meat Raised on GM Feed is Different. Roundup Could Cause Birth Defects. Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility (AAEM)". (Jeffrey Smith, 2011-12-07, The leading consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices, http://www.responsibletechnology.org/).


I wish to explore the full implication of the above post. Presently the noisy, garrulous election petition politics of the NDC and NPP dominates public discourse in Ghana. This disadvantages all other equally important issues. But the Ghanaian people must be warned about the dangers GMFs, otherwise we may start sprouting hydra-headed, cancer-ridden, conjoined babies all over the place!


Ghanaians/African are largely uninformed about the full nutritional value of our traditional food varieties. Worse we are oblivious of the current debate on the impact of GMF. Thus shielded, it is no wonder our own government has virtually empowered Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds, an offshoot of one of the most feared and distrusted Multi-National Corporations, Du Pont (DP) of USA, to set shop experiment on our traditional food and seed varieties, and virtually define our entire agricultural food growing policy for the coming years. Ghana is living dangerously with the enemy!


Information about food research is very sparse. The interim effect of GMF on our local domesticated seed and food varieties will be devastating: genetically-altered forms of dwarfism (compare local varieties of our banana, mango, pawpaw, tomatoes and onions to imported ones), disease-riven food yields (compare our insect-riven local black eye-beans with Indonesian, USA and Thailand varieties). Long-term effect (complete wipe-out of our hardy local food varieties).


It is also important to emphasise that the best fertiliser is bio-fertiliser from decaying food and treated animal waste. Its production is easy, cheap and sustainable. It has no side effects like chemically based fertiliser.


Typical of our national lack of discourse on the full import of GMFs, a lot of Ghanaians may be excused to under-estimate the gravity of the dangers of GMFs. A friend wrote this innocent response, "We all know genetically modified seeds are dangerous but how sure are you these seeds are genetically modified? Because these seeds were products of the agriculture institute in gh. check your facts ma brother" (16 January at 10:24).


I partly grew up in New Tafo (Akyem). So I am very aware of the pioneering research work into botanical agriculture by, the West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI), Ghana and Africa's foremost agricultural research institute.


I knew WACRI would not be involved with GMFs (of course, one is never too sure) so I did more research and found out that Mr Ahwoi had made his malevolent announcement when he launched the 'irrigated maize production programme in Ghana', by US agro-business company, Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds at Tamale. Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds has already introduced its hybrid maize known as “Pioneer maize” which is drought resistant and could yield 42 bags per acre...He said last year about $68 million worth of fertiliser was imported into the country" (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=227693&comment=0#com).


So it is clear the seeds have been developed Pioneer High-Seeds, not our agriculture institutes in Ghana. Secondly, Ghana spends US $68m on the importation of fertilizer, which we could have avoided by investing half the amount into good biol-waste management.


So what is Pioneer Hi-Bred International? It is a subsidiary of US chemical giant DuPont - one of the world's largest commercial seed producers. It claims to use GENETIC research to develop hybrid seeds designed to produce higher crop yields for farmers. It produces seed for: soybean, sunflower, canola, rice, sorghum, alfalfa and wheat. It also forages grain additives and offers an array of services including crop management and agronomy. The company's acquisition by DuPont in 1999 allowed Pioneer to grow its development efforts by tapping into DuPont's considerable research capabilities and wealth. Pioneer now has customers in 70 countries.

WHAT IS GMF?


Genetically modified foods (GMFs) are food that are altered to increase yield, size, flavour or taste; insect-resistance or efficiency. Typically GMFs include: soya beans, corn, grains, and various fruits and vegetables. Beside agricultural crops, animal products are also altered, "For example, synthetic growth hormones are used to make beef cows bigger, yielding more meat, and to increase the amount of milk that dairy cows can produce. Some of these practices are criticized by various groups as being unsafe or unnatural. Despite this, an estimated 75% of all foods purchased in America contain at least some genetically modified ingredients".


CURRENT ACTIVITIES OF THE KEY GMF COMPANIES


To revisit the article, "Government to subsidies certified seed for 2012 farming season", I am very alarming that our government appears to meekly surrender our agricultural policy to, Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds, offshoot of one of the most vicious, self-interested, historically murderous, anti-human, capitalistic companies on earth - Du Pont! What mostly worries me, is the clear lack of concerted national resistance to the imposition of Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds and Du Pont on us. We are behaving with the utmost trust and mortal resignation that befits sheep on their way to the slaughter house!


Ahwoi proudly said Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds, "Has been in the country for some time now, has already introduced its hybrid maize known as 'Pioneer maize' which is drought-resistant and could yield 42 bags per acre" (www.ghanaweb.com). Mr Ahwoi went further to make the usual political noises saying that the subsidy on certified seed and liquid fertiliser would be done in conjunction with increased irrigation, improved soil and water management to obtain a holistic approach to step up farm-level productivity:


"He said farmers are the pivot around which the drive for increase productivity revolves and as a result they are being provided with critical research findings and results together with education to enable them adopt and apply appropriate technology along the agriculture value chain. He said he wants to see farming as a business and farmers becoming rich. To achieve this, farmers need to increase their productivity from the current yield of 1.7 metric tons per hectare to about eight metric tons per hectare...The Agriculture Minister said it is the intention of government to double the current maize production of 1.8 million metric tons to about three million metric tons within the next three years to meet both animal and human requirements" (www.ghanaweb.com).


While it is important and extremely attractive for farmers to double or triple their yields and become rich, many questions must be posed to Ahwoi. Should increased yields and consequent wealth be at all cost? Is it not the responsibility of a minister of government to do the appropriate prior research to better inform and advise mainly simple, peasant farmers and the Ghanaian people about the dangers of GMFs? Do the peasants he so cynically lie to not deserve the benefit of his relative education? Has he not found it imperative to at least to share with all concerned the background of the GMF company he so glowingly markets?


Alas, Ahwoi is hell-bent on pursuing his grandiose project of increasing food yields and enriching farmers. He goes further to enhance further Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds/Du Pont's economic stake in Ghana, "Mr Ahwoi urged Pioneer Hi-Bred Company to consider the local content practice by putting in place modalities that would facilitate and enhance its operations in Ghana" (www.ghanaweb.com).


How impetuously arrogant of Ahwoi, one might say, considering his solo actions have not been sufficiently debated in Ghana? Yet criticisms of GMFs are based on solid scientific grounds. There are actual and major health and environmental risks attached to GMFs.


DANGERS OF GMF


The key companies involved in GMF are, DuPont (DP) and Dow Chemical Company (DOW). These large chemical corporations, manufacture GM seeds and agricultural tools and technologies used to increase crop yield:


"Monsanto Company (MON) and Syngenta AG (SYT) also produce specially engineered seeds to increase crop yields. In addition, Monsanto makes the only synthetic rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), a hormone used to increase dairy cows' production of milk. Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) is a large distributor of agricultural products, including corn and grains. While the exact percentage is unknown, ADM does distribute, process, and sell some genetically modified products...and of course these companies are do not include GMO on the title". (Genetically Modified Foods, Wikinvest, http://www.wikinvest.com/concept/Genetically_Modified_Foods).


As pointed above, on June 7 2010 the US Agriculture Department approved a genetically modified soybean engineered to contain healthier oils. This opened a biotechology (biotech) competition between DuPont Co. and its rival, Monsanto Co. But over 90% of soybeans is already GM altered:

"The modified soybeans represent a move by DuPont and Monsanto to broaden the crop traits engineered in their seeds beyond simple properties like pest resistance to complex areas -- like nutritional value, drought tolerance and nitrogen fixation - that are often influenced by multiple genes. These long-promised traits previously found little purchase in the seed giant's business plans" (As U.S. Approves GM Soybean, DuPont and Monsanto Gird for Cooking-Oil War Sign In to E-Mail Print, PAUL VOOSEN, Greenwire, June 7, 2010,http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/06/07/07greenwire-as-us-approves-gm-soybean-dupont-and-monsanto-80269.html).


While DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds, Dow Chemical Company (DOW), Monsanto Company (MON) and Syngenta AG (SYT) and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM), presently continue to amass US$ billions in marketing GMFs and dominating world agriculture, we must be reminded of the actual dangers of these GMFs.


GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS, ARE THEY SAFE?


These quotes answers the above question directly:


"Many consumers in the US mistakenly believe that the FDA approves GM foods through rigorous, in-depth, long-term studies. In reality, the agency has absolutely no safety testing requirements. Instead the agency relies on research from companies like Monsanto, research that is meticulously designed to avoid finding problems".


"It’s easy to understand the FDA’s industry-friendly policy on regulation of GMOs when you see the revolving door between agency regulators and the companies they regulate. The White House mandate to the FDA (under the first George Bush) was to promote biotechnology and the person in charge of developing the agency’s policy at that time was a former Monsanto attorney, who later returned to Monsanto as their vice president".


"The FDA has claimed it was not aware of any information showing that GM crops were different “in any meaningful or uniform way,” from non-GMO crops and therefore didn’t require testing. But 44,000 internal FDA documents made public by a lawsuit show that this was a complete lie. The overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists was that GM foods were quite different and could lead to unpredictable and hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. It turns out that FDA scientists, who had urged superiors to require long-term studies, were ignored" (US Consumers Have Been Given a False Sense of Security About the Safety of Our Food Supply, Seeds of Deception, http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/AboutGeneticallyModifiedFoods/index.cfm).


"The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) doesn’t think so. The Academy reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system".


"The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods. Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored" (The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), Jeffrey Smith, 2011-12-07, The leading consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices, http://www.responsibletechnology.org/).


If the US people, who are relatively more informed about the effects of scientific and technological modernisation on their lives, are intentionally lied to as the above quote states, then Ghanaians must concede that they stand no chance at all to protect themselves from the long-term full effects of the present experimentation that Ahwoi and the Ghana government so naively unleashing on us.


"Unlike safety evaluations for drugs, there are no human clinical trials of GM foods. The only published human feeding experiment revealed that the genetic material inserted into GM soy transfers into bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GM foods, we may still have their GM proteins produced continuously inside us. This could mean: If the antibiotic gene inserted into most GM crops were to transfer, it could create super diseases, resistant to antibiotics If the gene that creates Bt-toxin in GM corn were to transfer, it might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories".


"Although no studies have evaluated if antibiotic or Bt-toxin genes transfer, that is one of the key problems. The safety assessments are too superficial to even identify most of the potential dangers from GMOs. See our Health Risks brochure and State of the Science report for more details and citations".


"Recent health studies provide growing evidence of harm from GMOs: GM Corn Damages Liver and Kidneys. Meat Raised on GM Feed is Different. Roundup Could Cause Birth Defects. Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility. (AAEM), Jeffrey Smith, 2011-12-07, The leading consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices, http://www.responsibletechnology.org/).

THE INHUMAN HISTORY OF DU PONT CO.


All GMF companies are by definition controversial. But no medals would be won to guess that DU Pont is the largest GMF company in the world, is also the most controversial. It has the most negatively colourful history of incidents:


"With 2,000 brand names, 100,000 employees and annual sales of $25 billion in 1998, Du Pont is one of the world’s biggest corporations. It’s 1939 slogan, “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry,” belies a destructive legacy that will last thousands of generations. One of the globe’s worst polluters, it pioneered the creation, marketing and cover up of almost every dangerous chemical toxin ever known. It now faces countless lawsuits for the adverse health and environmental effects of its products, the unsafe working conditions in its factories and the foolhardy, disposal practices it flaunts as final solutions for its waste products. Here is a small sampling of Du Pont’s gifts to the planet" (The du Pont Company, By Richard Sanders, http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/dupont.html):


" Sulphur dioxide and lead paint * CFCs: 25% of the world’s supply and almost 50% of the U.S. market. * Herbicides and pesticides: brain damage, hormone system disruption. * Formaldehyde: cancer and respiratory illnesses. * Dioxins: Leading the way to create these carcinogens, du Pont then suppressed data on their deadly effects. * Highly-processed, unnutritious products marketed as healthy food. * Genetically modified foods and “Terminator”/“Killer seeds” threaten food security for 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seeds. * Patenting plant genes and stealing the Third World’s genetic resources. * Using U.S. prison labour and factories in many oppressive regimes. * Its oil subsidiary, Conoco, provided petrochemical raw materials and caused environmental devastation. * Du Pont is one of the world’s biggest producers of green house gases. * Sold for 33 years, the fungicide Benlate destroyed crops, shrimp farms and caused birth defects. * Since the 1920s, du Pont produced leaded gas which is responsible for 80-90% of the world’s environmental lead contamination. Besides fueling Nazi war machines that rolled and flew across Europe killing tens of millions, this product’s legacy includes retarding children’s mental health and causing hypertension in adults. Du Pont’s helped stop the U.S. ban until 1996, and then increased its overseas sales" (The du Pont Company, By Richard Sanders, http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/dupont.html).


"1) "People in eight [US] states, including fourteen families in Florida, claim DuPont failed to alert consumers to the possible dangers of Teflon...which gives Teflon its priceless non-stick quality. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency received study results showing the chemicals are "likely" to cause cancer in humans and animals. According to the study results, PFOA breaks down into toxins when it is heated to more than 680 degrees and is not safe for conventional use." (The Teflon Controversy: DuPont, Teflon, and the Courts Monica Sanders - Oct 2007, "http://www.legalzoom.com/legal-headlines/corporate-lawsuits/teflon-controversy-dupont-teflon).


"2) Along with Thomas Midgley (working under Charles Kettering of General Motors), DuPont was the inventor of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), and the largest producer of these ozone-depleting chemicals (used primarily in aerosol sprays and refrigerants) in the world, with a 25% market share in the late 1980s" (Du Pont, Chlorofluorocarbons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DuPont).


3) "In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized DuPont for spending $13.75 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008-2010, instead getting $72 million in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $2.1 billion" (Du Pont, Tax dodging and lobbying, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DuPont).


4) "A jury in Ashland, Ky., has found E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. grossly negligent for a toxic chemical accident at its Wurtland, KY plant in 2004. It awarded six plaintiffs a total of about $1.3 million in damages for injuries they suffered as a result of the release and as punishment for DuPont. The punitive damages were calculated at a rate of 10 times the compensatory damages awarded by the jury" (2009 Kentucky DuPont Found Negligent, Saturday, July 18, 2009, http://unusualkentucky.blogspot.com/2009/07/kentucky-dupont-found-negligent.html).


5) "DeLISLE - Lawyers have signed up more than 800 clients who claim that chemicals from DuPont's DeLisle plant have caused a variety of illnesses. The lawyers plan to file a multibillion-dollar federal lawsuit - yes, billions - within weeks against DuPont, but they admit they have not linked chemical emissions from the plant to reported illnesses in the community. "We believe. We don't have evidence yet," said Gulfport lawyer Kathleen Smiley, who decided to take the case after a client told her about many illnesses in the Kiln-DeLisle area.


Smiley and two other lawyers hope their experts can prove that leaked and spilled chemicals, moving through the air and drinking-water aquifers, have caused the array of illnesses. They plan to spend about $1 million gathering evidence and hiring experts in hopes that their investment will pay off through the lawsuit" (LAWYERS TARGET DUPONT-DELISLE THEY SAY IT MAKES PEOPLE ILL; FIRM SAYS NO PATRICK PETERSON; THE SUN HERALD, December 23, 2001,http://delisle.passchristian.net/id10.htm).


6) "In a report submitted by Saddam Hussein to the United Nations shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it was revealed that DuPont had participated in Iraq's nuclear weapons program. (Though the U.S. attempted to redact the names of all U.S. companies involved, an uncensored copy was leaked to the press.) DuPont has not faced any sanctions because of this. (The Deadly Brew at DuPont, Iraq's nuclear program, http://www.kycbs.net/DuPont.htm).


"Du Pont’s General Motors Co. funded a vigilante/terrorist organization to stop unionization in its Midwestern factories. Called the “Black Legion,” its members wore black robes decorated with a white skull and crossbones. Concealed behind their slitted hoods, this KKK-like network of white-supremacist thugs threw bombs into union halls, set fire to labor activists’ homes, tortured union organizers and killed at least 50 in Detroit alone.


Many of their victims were Blacks lured North by tales of good auto-plant jobs. One of their victims, Rev. Earl Little, was murdered in 1931. His son, later called Malcolm X, was then six. An earlier memory, his first, was a night-time raid in 1929 when the Legion burnt down their house" ((The du Pont Company, By Richard Sanders, http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/dupont.html).

CONCLUSION


First, Ghanaians/African are largely uninformed about the full nutritional value of our traditional food varieties. Worse we are oblivious of the current debate on the impact of GMF. Thus shielded, it is no wonder our own government has virtually empowered Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds, an offshoot of one of the most feared and distrusted Trans-National Corporations (TNCs), Du Pont of USA, to set shop to experiment on our traditional food and seed varieties, and virtually define our entire agricultural food growing policy for the coming years. Ghana is living dangerously with the enemy!


Second, typical of our national lack of discourse on the full import of GMFs, a lot of Ghanaians may be excused for under-estimating the gravity of the dangers of GMFs. We tend to think GMFs are safe products from our agriculture institutes in Ghana. Well, they are not. The are fully 'made in USA.'


Third, in the US, the home country of Du Pont/Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds, "FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored" (The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), Jeffrey Smith, 2011-12-07, The leading consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices, http://www.responsibletechnology.org/).


Fourth, if the US people, who are relatively more informed about the effects of scientific and technological modernisation on their lives, are intentionally lied to as the above quote states, then Ghanaians must be very concerned that they stand no chance to protect themselves from the full long-term effects of the present experimentation, that Ahwoi and the Ghana government naively unleashes on them.


Fifth, the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists was that GM foods were quite different and could lead to unpredictable and hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. It turns out that FDA scientists, who had urged superiors to require long-term studies were ignored.


Sixth, although no studies have evaluated if antibiotic or Bt-toxin genes transfer...Recent health studies provide growing evidence of harm from GMOs: GM Corn Damages Liver and Kidneys. Meat Raised on GM Feed is Different. Roundup Could Cause Birth Defects. Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility (AAEM).


Lastly, Du Pont/Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds has been implicated in so many serious, life-ending controversies to be credible companies with whom Ghana must entrust the future of its food production. I point out that our media is now frequently reporting cases of conjoined twins dying from unsuccessful surgery in our hospitals. The Ides of March (day of reckoning) has come!


Du Ponts is responsible for the following products and poses serious dangers to Ghanaians:


* Sulphur dioxide and lead paint [poisoning]. * CFCs: 25% of the world’s supply and almost 50% of the U.S. market. * Herbicides and pesticides: brain damage, hormone system disruption. * Formaldehyde: cancer and respiratory illnesses. * Dioxins: Leading the way to create these carcinogens, du Pont then suppressed data on their deadly effects. * Highly-processed, unnutritious products marketed as healthy food. * Genetically modified foods and “Terminator”/“Killer seeds” threaten food security for 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seeds. * Patenting plant genes and stealing the Third World’s genetic resources. * Using U.S. prison labour and factories in many oppressive regimes. * Its oil subsidiary, Conoco, provided petrochemical raw materials and caused environmental devastation. * Du Pont is one of the world’s biggest producers of green house gases. * Sold for 33 years, the fungicide Benlate destroyed crops, shrimp farms and caused birth defects.


* Since the 1920s, du Pont produced leaded gas which is responsible for 80-90% of the world’s environmental lead contamination. Besides fueling Nazi war machines that rolled and flew across Europe killing tens of millions, this product’s legacy includes retarding children’s mental health and causing hypertension in adults. Du Pont’s helped stop the U.S. ban until 1996, and then increased its overseas sales" (The du Pont Company, By Richard Sanders, http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/dupont.html).

Columnist: Kofi of Africa