Tanzania orders destruction of Monsanto/Gates’ GM trials due to illegal use for pro-GM propaganda

Dar es Salaam 23 November 2018

Tanzanian civil society organisations (CSOs) welcome the decision of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mathew Mtigumwe, to bring an immediate stop to all ongoing GM field trials taking place in the country. These are under the auspices of the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project which includes Monsanto, the Gates Foundation and national research centres. This decision has since been verified by the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Japheth Hasunga in latest media reports.

In a report issued by the Ministry, the Permanent Secretary ordered, with immediate effect, the cessation of all field trial operations and the destruction of all “the remnants” of the trials at the Makutupora Centre in Dodoma, where trials were taking place. This decision has come after the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) released the results of the trials without the necessary authorisation, when it invited certain members of the public, including the well-known pro GM lobbyist, Mark Lynas, to witness how ‘well’ the GM crops were performing. TARI also hosted a recent excursion to the trial site by the Parliamentary Committee on Food and Agriculture.

Unauthorised access to trial sites indicates collusion between biotech lobbyists and GM researchers paid by the Gates Foundation and others. Mark Lynas’s unethical social media hype uses Tanzania’s smallholder farmers in an instrumentalist way as a means to justify the introduction of GMO crops in the country, claiming that Tanzanians are poor and hungry. The statements of the pro-GM scientists have not yet been corroborated by the Ministry of Agriculture or related institutions such as the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI).

The biotech machinery both in Tanzania and elsewhere has supported a well-funded media campaign to spread pro GM propaganda and to push for the adoption of GM maize in the country, despite the questionable benefits for smallholder farmers. They have consistently made unsubstantiated claims about the GM varieties, including superior drought tolerance and resistance to fall army worm. In a media report ‘New push in pipeline for acceptance of GMO seed’, GMO trials were hailed as a “success” with the Director General of TARI claiming that ‘GMO seeds are a solution to the longstanding problems of pest invasions in farms across Tanzania’. These  unsubstantiated claims were made on the effectiveness of the insect resistant Bt trait -MON 810 - that was ‘donated’ to WEMA countries even though it has been phased out in South Africa due to massive and widespread insect resistance.

That the claims are unsubstantiated was confirmed by the recent decision of South African biosafety authorities to reject Monsanto’s application for commercial release of its triple stacked GM drought tolerant maize, MON 87460 x MON 89034 x NK 603. The decision was made on the grounds that the field trial data insufficiently demonstrated the claimed drought and insect resistant efficacy of the GM event. MON 87460 is currently being field trialed in Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique where the WEMA project is also active. The decision to stop the trials is another blow to the WEMA project following so soon after the South African decision.

Farmers’ organisations including Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania (MVIWATA), the national smallholder farmers’ organisation, other CSOs, academics from the University of Dar es Salaam and members of the scientific community and the public within and outside the country, have openly criticized the WEMA project and the GM trials taking place in Tanzania. In a recent letter to a local newspaper, MVIWATA strongly expressed the view that “farmers have called for our government not to allow GMOs to be used in the country for obvious reasons that neither farmers nor the nation shall benefit from GMOs”.

Organisations have condemned threats by local scientists, who are paid by WEMA, to push for further revisions of the country’s biosafety regulations. The aim of proposed revisions is to change from strict liability to fault based provisions to allow the commercial release of the GM crops once the trials were completed. Strict liability means that whoever introduces GMOs into the environment is directly legally responsible for any damage, injury or loss caused. Fault-based provisions mean that the fault or negligence of whoever introduces a GMO will first have to be proven.

According to Janet Maro from Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) “the move by the Permanent Secretary comes at a critical time when almost all media houses are publishing the pro biotech propaganda about the successes of the field trials without a shred of solid research data to back up their claims. We call upon the Permanent Secretary to encourage researchers to carry out farmer-centered research aimed at addressing current pressing challenges and to explore using locally available solutions to ensure sustainability and wider adoption of locally researched practices and technologies.”

Dr. Richard Mbunda a food sovereignty researcher and lecturer from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Dar es Salaam  also supported the view, recently writing an open letter to the President questioning the deployment of GM technology in the country.

Sabrina Masinjila, Tanzania-based research and advocacy officer at the African Centre for Biodiversity says, “we hope that this decision will help the government rethink investments when it comes to agricultural research. Rather than spending huge amounts of scarce public resources on failed and discredited GM technology, we should focus on strengthening existing research institutions, and support participatory farmer research on seed systems aimed at strengthening seed, food and national sovereignty.”

Ends.

 

Contacts:

MVIWATA – info@mviwata.org

Janet Maro, Executive Director – janet.maro@gmail.com

Sabrina Masinjila, Outreach and Advocacy Officer – Sabrina@acbio.org.za

 

Notes to Editors:

The WEMA project is a public-private partnership coordinated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), involving the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), agribusiness multinational Bayer-Monsanto, and the national research systems in Kenya Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and most recently Ethiopia. It is largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffet Foundations and USAID.

 


Tanzania yaagiza kuteketezwa kwa tafiti za Monsanto/Gates kisa kutumiwa kueneza propaganda za GM kinyume cha sheria

Dar es Salaam 23 Novemba 2018

Asasi za kiraia nchi Tanzania zimeukaribisha uamuzi wa katibu mkuu wa wizara ya kilimo, mifugo na uvuvi, Mathew Mtigume wa kusitisha mara moja shughuli za tafiti za mazao yaliyobadilishwa vinasaba kupitia uhandisi jeni (GMO) zinazoendelea nchini. Tafiti hizi chini ya mwavuli wa mradi wa mahindi yanayostahimili ukame kwa bara la Afrika unaojulikana kama WEMA unaohusisha Monsanto, taasisi ya Gates na vituo vya utafiti vya taifa. Waziri wa kilimo Japheth Hasunga aliyechaguliwa hivi karibuni alithibitisha uamuzi huu.

Katika taarifa iliyotolewa na wizara, katibu mkuu aliamuru kusitishwa mara moja shughuli za majaribio na kuteketezwa mazao yote yaliyokuwa yakitumika kwa ajili ya utafiti kwenye kituo cha utafiti cha Makutupora Dodoma ambapo majaribio yalikuwa yakifanyika. Uamuzi huu umekuja kufuatia Taasisi ya Tafiti za Kilimo Tanzania (TARI) kuanza kutoa matokeo ya majaribio bila idhini ya serikali ambapo baadhi ya watu ikiwemo mpiga debe maarufu wa GM bwana Mark Lynas walialikwa kuona jinsi mazao ya GMO “yanavyofanya vyema”. TARI pia waliandaa ziara ya wajumbe wa kamati ya kudumu ya bunge ya chakula na kilimo.

Kutembelea maeneo ya majaribio kinyume na taratibu kunaashiria ushirikiano usiofaa baina ya wapiga debe wa GMO na watafiti wanaolipwa na taasisi ya Gates na nyingine. Bwana Mark Lynas amekuwa akitoa taarifa zisizozingatia maadili kwenye mitandao ya kijamii akitumia wakulima wadogo kuhalalisha kuanzishwa kwa mazao ya GMO nchini akidai kwamba watanzania ni masikini na wanakabiliwa na baa la njaa. Matamko ya wanasayansi wenye mrengo wa kuunga mkono matumizi ya GMO bado hayajathibitishwa na wizara ya kilimo au taasisi nyingine zinazohusiana nazo kama Taasisi ya kudhibiti ubora wa mbegu (TOSCI).

Wazalishaji wa teknolojia za kibaolojia nchini Tanzania na kwingineko wamesaidia kampeni ya vyombo vya habari kueneza propaganda juu ya GM na kushinikiza kukubalika kwa mahindi ya GMO pamoja na kuwepo maswali kuhusu faida zake kwa wakulima wadogo. Wameendelea kutoa madai bila uthibitisho kuhusu uwezo wa GM, ikiwemo kukabili ukame na viwavi jeshi vamizi. Katika taarifa ya vyombo vya habari yanye kichwa “ Msukumo mpya kuelekea kukubaliwa kwa mbegu za GMO”, majaribio ya mbegu za GMO yalitajwa na mkurugenzi wa TARI kama yamekuwa ya mafanikio akidai kuwa mbegu za GMO ndio suluhisho la matatizo ya muda mrefu ya wadudu vamizi mashambani nchini Tanzania. Madai haya yasiyo na uthibitisho wowote yaliwahi pia kutolewa kuhusu ufanisi wa jeni ya Bt ya mahindi ya MON 810 ambayo ilitolewa kama “msaada” kwa nchini zinazotekeleza mradi wa WEMA ingawa ziliondolewa Afrika kusini kufuatia kupata ukinzani wa wadudu.

Kuwa madai haya hayana msingi inathibitishwa na uamuzi wa hivi karibuni wa mamlaka ya usalama wa kibaoloji ya Afrika kusini kukataa ombi la Monsanto kuingiza sokoni mahindi yanayostahinili ukame yaliyofanyiwa uhandisi ya mahindi ya MON 87460 x MON 89034 x NK 603. Uamuzi huu ulifanywa kuzingatia kuwa matokeo ya majaribio hayakuweza kuthibisha ufanisi wa mbegu hizi kwenye kukabiliana na ukame na wadudu waharibifu. MON 87460 kwasasa inafanyiwa majaribio nchini Kenya, Uganda na Msumbiji ambapo mradi wa WEMA unaendelea. Kusitishwa kwa majaribio ni pigo lingine kwa WEMA lililokuja muda mfupi baada ya uamuzi wa Afrika kusini.

Asasi za wakulima ikiwemo Mtandao wa Vikundi vya Wakulima Tanzania (MVIWATA), asasi ya taifa ya wakulima wadogo, asasi nyingine, wanataaluma kutoka chuo kikuu cha Dar es salaam, jumuiya ya wanasayansi na jamii kwa ujumla ndani na nje ya nchi wamepinga hadharani mradi wa WEMA na majaribio ya GMO yanayofanyika Tanzania. Kwenye barua yao kwa gazeti la hapa nchini, MVIWATA walitoa maoni yao kueleza “wakulima wameitaka serikali kutoruhusu GMO kutumika nchini kwa sababu zilizo wazi kuwa sio taifa wala wakulima watakaofaidika nazo”. Pia wamepongeza hatua ya Serikali ya kusitisha majaribio ya GMO.   

Asasi hizi zimelaani vitisho vya wanasayansi wa hapa nchini ambao wanalipwa na WEMA kushinikiza kubadilishwa zaidi kwa kanuni za usalama wa kibaolojia. Lengo la mabadiliko haya likiwa ni kulegezwa zaidi masharti ya vifungu vya kanuni hizi katika uwajibikaji ikija katika kuruhusu kuingizwa sokoni mazao ya GMO mara baada majaribio kukamilika. Masharti magumu kwenye kuwajibika (strict liability) yanamaanisha kuwa yeyote atakayetumia GMO atawajibika vikali kwa madhara yeyote kwenye mazingira iwe ni uaharibifu, majeruhi au upotevu wowote. Masharti yanayoelekea kuajibishwa kwenye makosa (fault-based liability) yamaanisha kuwa kosa au uzembe wa yeyote atakayetumia GMO ni lazima kwanza ithibitike.

Kwa mujibu wa Janeth Maro kutoka asasi ya kilimo endelevu Tanzania (SAT), hatua zilizochukuliwa na katibu mkuu zimekuja wakati muhimu kipindi ambacho karibu kila chombo cha habari kinachapisha propaganda za wanaounga mkono uhandisijeni kuhusu kufanikiwa kwa majaribio bila kutoa hata kiasi kidogo cha taarifa kuthibitisha madai hayo. Tunamtaka katibu mkuu kuwatia moyo watafiti kufanya tafiti zenye kulenga kutatua changamoto zinazowakabili wakulima na kuangalia suluhisho endelevu na kutumika kwa matokeo ya tafiti mbali mbali zilizofanywa kuhusu teknolojia ya ndani.

Mtafiti wa masuala ya uhuru wa chakula na mhadhiri katika idara ya sayansi na Siasa chuo kikuu cha Dar es salaam Dr. Richard Mbunda ameunga mkono mtazamo huo, katika barua ya wazi kwa rais aliyoiandika hivi karibuni akihoji matumizi ya teknolijia ya uhandisi jeni hapa nchini.

Afisa ulaghabishi na mtafiti wa kituo cha cha bioanuai Afrika aliyeko Tanzania, Sabrina Masinjila alisema” tunatumai uamuzi huu utasaidia serikali kufikiria upya uwekezaji linapokuja suala la tafiti za kilimo. Badala ya kutumia kiasi kikubwa cha fedha chache za umma kwenye teknolojia iliyoshindwa ya GMO, tunaweza kujikita kwenye kuimarisha taasisi zetu za tafiti na kusaidia tafiti za wakulima kwenye mifumo ya mbegu, chakula na uhuru wa kuamua juu ya hatma yetu wenyewe.

Mwisho.

 

Mawasiliano:

MVIWATA – info@mviwata.org

Janet Maro, Mkurugenzi Mtendaji – janet.maro@kilimo.org

Sabrina Masinjila, Afisa Ulaghabishi na mtafiti – Sabrina@acbio.org.za

 

Taarifa kwa Wahariri

 

Mahindi yanayotumia maji kwa ufanisi yajulikanayo kwa kingereza kama Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) ni mpango ambao unalenga kuendeleza aina za mbegu za mahindi zinazostahimili ukame na wadudu waharibifu. WEMA ni ubia baina ya sekta ya umma na sekta binafsi inayoratibiwa na Asasi ya Teknolojia ya Kilimo ijulikanayo kama – the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). Washirika ni Kituo cha kimataifa cha kuboresha Mahindi na Ngano (CIMMYT), kampuni kubwa ya kibiashara Monsanto/Bayer, na taasisi za utafiti nchini Kenya, Msumbiji, Afrika Kusini, Tanzania na Uganda, ambapo majaribio