WEMA Project shrouded in secrecy: open letter to African governments to be accountable to farmers, civil society
The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project promises to develop drought tolerance in maize for the benefit of small holder farmers, but is really a project designed to facilitate the spread of hybrid and genetically modified (GM) maize varieties on the continent.
WEMA involves five African countries: Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. It works through the National Agricultural Research (NAR) agencies of these countries, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT)
and Monsanto. The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
There is a great deal of secrecy that surrounds the WEMA project. The AATF (the so-called ‘not for profit’ organisation that coordinates WEMA) exercises extremely tight control over any information related to WEMA and has prevented researchers from speaking to WEMA partners, including the NARs. Information relating to performance and quality control is notably absent from the WEMA website. The NARs are public research institutions and are accountable to the public, especially in regard to the use of public goods under their control, such as germplasm, institutional resources and capacities. They are under constitutional and
APPEAL AGAINST MONSANTO’S BOGUS GM DROUGHT TOLERANT MAIZE HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR URGENT AGRICULTURE TRANSITION
17th December 2015
South Africa is in the grip of the worst drought since 1992, with many parts of the country experiencing record temperatures and little to no rain. The maize and transport industries are currently planning for a worst-case scenario, where the continent’s largest maize producer – South Africa – may potentially need to import 4 million metric tons of maize due to the prolonged drought. It is against this backdrop that the South African government has granted approval to Monsanto for it to market its wholly inadequate and over-hyped ‘climate smart’ solution to drought– genetically modified (GM) drought tolerant maize, also known as ‘MON87460.’ The controversial maize was developed under the auspices of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) funded project called Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), currently operating in five African countries and aimed at ‘benefitting’ smallholder farmers.
The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has consistently opposed MON87460 as unproven, unsafe and inappropriate for resource-poor smallholders. The organisation has formally appealed against its approval for commercial cultivation in South Africa. The Minister of Agriculture, Mr Senzeni Zokwana, has advised the ACB on the 15th December 2015 that he has established an Appeal Board to
African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), União Nacional de Camponeses (UNAC), Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (KBioC), Kenya Food Rights Alliance (KeFRA), Eastern and Southern African Small-Scale Farmers Forum Uganda (ESAFF, Uganda)
Non-governmental and farmer organisations from South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda strongly condemn the go-ahead given by the South African GMO authorities for Monsanto to commercially sell its genetically modified (GM) “drought tolerant” maize seed for cultivation in South Africa. According to the groups, there is no evidence showing that the drought tolerant trait even works. According to Mariam Mayet of the ACB, “the GM maize (MON87460) has not undergone proper risk assessment anywhere in the world and has no history of safe use. South Africans who are already being force-fed with old risky GM traits will now be subject to an utterly new foreign, untested and risky transgene in their daily food.”
MON 87460 stems from of a Monsanto/Gates Foundation project, Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA). Other key project partners include the Howard Buffet Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT). The project is being implemented in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda,
Friends of the Earth International
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, 23 February, 2015 ? US agencies, funders such as the Gates Foundation, and agribusiness giant Monsanto are trying to force unwilling African nations to accept expensive and insufficiently tested Genetically Modified (GM) foods and crops, according to a new report released today. 
?The US, the world’s top producer of GM crops, is seeking new markets for American GM crops in Africa. The US administration’s strategy consists of assisting African nations to produce biosafety laws that promote agribusiness interests instead of protecting Africans from the potential threats of GM crops,? said Haidee Swanby from the African Centre for Biosafety, which authored the report commissioned by Friends of the Earth International.
The new report also exposes how agribusiness giant Monsanto influences biosafety legislation in African countries, gains regulatory approval for its product, and clears the path for products such as GM maize (corn).
Only four African countries -South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Sudan- have released GM crops commercially but the issue of genetically modified maize is deeply controversial, given that maize is the staple food of millions of Africans.
Unlike Europe and other regions where strong biosafety laws have been
The most persistent myth about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is that they are necessary to feed a growing global population. Highly effective marketing campaigns have drilled it into our heads that GMOs will produce more food on less land in an environmentally friendly manner. The mantra has been repeated so often that it is considered to be truth. Now this mantra has come to Africa, sung by the United States government and multinational corporations like Monsanto, seeking to open new markets for a product that has been rejected by so many others around the globe.
While many countries have implemented strict legal frameworks to regulate GMOs, African nations have struggled with the legal, scientific and infrastructural resources to do so. This has delayed the introduction of GMOs into Africa, but it has also provided the proponents of GMOs a plum opportunity to offer their assistance, in the process helping to craft laws on the continent that promote the introduction of barely regulated GMOs and create investor-friendly environments for agribusiness. Their line is that African governments must adopt GMOs as a matter of urgency to deal with hunger and that laws implementing pesky and expensive safety measures, or requiring assessments
AGRA’s scandalous subsidisation of big fertiliser, financial and agribusiness corporations in Africa
In a scandalous move of skulduggery, the African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), under the guise of empowering smallholder farmers in Africa, is subsidising multinational fertiliser and financial corporations on African soil. Other beneficiaries of this scheme are the global grain trading and food processing giants.
AFAP, established in 2012, with a grant of US $25 million from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)-the biggest grant given to a single recipient by AGRA so far- is ostensibly working towards ensuring that African smallholder farmers grow food and profits. However, according to a new report from the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) – The African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP): The missing link in Africa’s Green Revolution, AFAP’s main focus is the provision of credit guarantees to importers and distributors of fertilisers in Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania.
“In essence, AFAP is using development funds, as well as money from the Ethiopian government – one of the least developed countries in the world – to subsidise multinational fertiliser companies such as Yara, which dominates the fertiliser trade in Africa. This also extends to large multinational banks such as the Standard Bank Group, Barclays and the Dutch firm Rabobank, who
Resources transferred from small-scale farmers to multinational agribusinesses in Malawi’s Green Revolution
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released its research report based on field work conducted in Malawi, titled “Running to stand still: Small-scale farmers and the Green Revolution in Malawi.” The research, conducted by the ACB in collaboration with the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology and Dr Blessings Chinsinga from the University of Malawi, does not validate the argument that Malawi is a Green Revolution success story. On the contrary, the research highlights the plight of small-scale farmers at the receiving end of the Green Revolution (GR) push in Malawi. Among its findings are that farmers are trapped in a cycle of debt and dependency on costly external inputs with limited long-term benefit, and that the natural resource base is being degraded and eroded despite ? or perhaps because of – GR inputs.
According to ACB’s lead researcher, Dr Stephen Greenberg, “our research found that small-scale farmers are using shockingly high levels of synthetic fertilisers at great financial costs to themselves and the public purse. Rising soil infertility is a feature of farming systems reliant on synthetic fertiliser. We found that farmers are increasingly adopting hybrid maize seed, encouraged by
According to ACB?s lead researcher, Dr Stephen Greenberg, ?our research found that small-scale farmers are using shockingly high levels ofsynthetic fertilisers at great financial costs to themselves and the publicpurse. Rising soil infertility is a feature of farming systems reliant on synthetic fertiliser. We found that farmers are increasingly adopting hybrid maize seed, encouraged by government subsidies and the promise of massive yields. However, adoption of these hybrid seeds comes at the cost of abandoning diversity and resilience of local seed varieties, and the ever escalating requirement for synthetic fertilisers. Indeed, our findings show net transfers away from farming households to agribusinesses such as SeedCo, Pannar (recentlymerged with Pioneer Hi-Bred), Monsanto and Demeter in the commercial seed industry. For fertiliser, the major fertiliser producers and distributors are Farmers World (which also owns Demeter seed), Yara, TansGlobe, Omnia and Rab Processors.?
South African agribusinesses are aggressively expanding into Africa in search of profits from a relatively untapped consumer market with rising income levels and to escape the country’s negative economic conditions. This paper traces this expansion and outlines the implications for Africa’s market structure, food security and food sovereignty movements, as well as exploring the potential impact on Africa?s small-scale farmers and producers.