African Civil Society Statement: Call for a ban on GMOs

Start date  2012-10-29
End date    2012-11-15
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Introduction

We, the undersigned, members of civil society organisations from across the African continent, hereby call for an immediate and complete ban on the growing, importing and exporting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the African continent.

We call upon the governments of Africa to take the necessary steps to protect the health of their populations by supporting this call and commit to conducting independent and authoritative long-term food safety studies.

We also call upon the governments of Africa to take note of our additional strong objections to GMOs. These concern the patenting of life forms and privatisation of agriculture, which has led to the dependence by farmers, rural communities and indigenous people on external private and monopolistic seeds suppliers. We are also extremely concerned about the adverse impact of industrial and GM based agriculture on biodiversity and climate change. We cannot ignore the suicide epidemic of farmers in India- a direct result of farmers' dependence on GM cotton- and the resultant increased costs and unmanageable debt.

Scientific uncertainty about food safety

During September 2012, Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, and his research team at the University of Caen in France, published the results of a two-year animal feeding study, in which rats fed with Monsanto's herbicide tolerant GM maize, event NK603, and glyphosate residues, developed tumours and showed signs of liver and kidney damage. The peer reviewed study, published in a highly respected scientific journal has come under vicious and sustained attack from the biotechnology machinery.

Nevertheless, scientific consensus has emerged from the discourse, that the current methods used by Monsanto et al, for testing the safety of GM food are dangerously inadequate and that long term, independent and publicly conducted food safety studies are urgently needed. We also note with concern that there are no internationally agreed protocols for long term testing of GMOs.

The Precautionary Principle

Our call for a ban is consistent with the Precautionary Principle, which states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent that damage. This Principle is the cornerstone of the United Nations' Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the only truly global international agreement on GMOs. Even the World Trade Organisation's Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement supports such a moratorium in these circumstances of scientific uncertainty1.

Maize is a staple food in Africa

We stress that the African continent is particularly vulnerable to food safety risks, taking into account that maize is one of our important staple crops. Many millions of Africans eat maize on a daily basis, in a semi-processed form. Although only South Africa grows GM maize commercially on the continent, thousands of tons of GM maize are being exported to several African countries from South Africa, while the aisles of supermarkets up and down the continent are stocked with GM products. In addition, tons of GM food aid from the United States and other GM producing countries are distributed to Africans.

Ban GMOs in Africa

Recognising that millions of Africans have been consuming GM maize and other GM products without their knowledge or consent; and

Taking into account the new consensus that long term, independent food safety studies are urgently needed;

We strongly urge the government of South Africa, (as the only GM food producer on the continent) and all other African governments that import GMOs and GM products, to urgently respond to our calls for a ban.

We urge our policy makers to follow the guidance provided by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). The IAASTD recommends that policy makers move away from industrial agriculture and GMOs, to food production systems that are appropriate for the millions of small-scale farmers around the world, who are primarily responsible for the global population's sustenance.


1. "Art 5.7--In cases where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, a Member may provisionally adopt sanitary or phytosanitary measures on the basis of available pertinent information, including that from the relevant international organizations as well as from sanitary or phytosanitary measures applied by other Members. In such circumstances, Members shall seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and review the sanitary or phytosanitary measure accordingly within a reasonable period of time."
Petition has ended, thank you to all those who signed and supported us.



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