For decades, European policymakers have strong-armed African nations to prevent approvals of desperately needed biotech crops (GMOs), even as devastating plagues of new and old plant pests ravage the continent and mire African farmers in a perpetual state of food insecurity.

As others and I have previously reported, the EU has been assisted in this by an extensive network of EU and US NGOs, and in recent years, an increasingly radicalized FAO[1], that have poured hundreds of millions of euros into spreading the most egregious lies and disinformation in the African media, claiming GMOs and the well-regulated modern pesticides EU and US farmers use will cause Africans everything from impotence to cancer, to autism and obesity.

These efforts, unfortunately, have been all too effective. Eighteen years ago, as famine swept Zambia, the nation’s President refused food aid shipments of what was likely GMO corn from the US, saying that just because his people were starving, that was no reason to feed them “poison.” Since then, Africans have seen little progress in adopting biotech crops into their farming. Until now, only two African nations, Nigeria and South Africa, have approved GMO food crops[2].

As a result, African farmers are forced to fight a growing list of plant diseases and pests deprived of innovative crop protection weapons that are essential if growers, rather than the bugs, are to prevail. Deadly locusts and the invasive Fall Armyworms are currently inundating East Africa. Maruca bores are decimating cowpea crops in Nigeria and Ghana. Banana Wilt Disease is destroying trees and an important food source in Uganda. Insects and drought threaten maize and cassava production in Tanzania and Ethiopia. Continent-wide, more Africans are daily exposed to potentially deadly but preventable aflatoxin contamination – poisonous carcinogens produced by molds found on untreated crops and foods -- than to common diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

So any movement away from the EU’s technology-killing stranglehold is cause for celebration, and late last year, Africa had two reasons to celebrate: In December, Nigeria announced approval of a new GMO insect-resistant cowpea variety specifically engineered to fight Maruca Borers. For their high protein content, cowpeas are known in Africa as the “poor man’s meat”. Nigerians are the largest cowpea consumers in the world. The country produces 61 percent of Africa’s and 58% of the world’s cowpea crop. In any given year, Maruca Borers are responsible for as much as an 80 percent decrease in Nigerian cowpea yields. The GMO cowpea now going into commercial production could boost yields by 20 percent, as well as reduce pesticide use and production costs.

In December last year, and in the face of furious opposition from EU-supported NGOs and organic activists, Kenya began taking steps to get needed insect resistant GMO cotton crop varieties into its farmers’ fields. The country’s beleaguered cotton planters have been struggling for years to control widespread and deadly African Bollworms. This pest annually destroys as much as 50 percent of the national cotton crop. By allowing commercialization of bollworm-resistant GMO Bt cotton, Kenya took a step to reviving its flagging cotton production. It is difficult to overstate the potential impact of their success on the welfare of the nation and all its people, whether in farming or not. According to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, cotton farming supports as many as 60,000 jobs throughout the country

Africa’s struggle to achieve technology and trade independence is not likely to end anytime soon. The power of the EU market makes many African governments afraid to challenge restrictive and unfair EU rules on food imports. The EU seems equally unlikely to abandon its misguided and unbalanced policies, or cede its long-standing neocolonial control over African agriculture. The EU is also keen on controlling the  the technologies that African farmers use to improve their agriculture, which in itself affects the the fate of hundreds of millions of Africans.

For at least a decade now, the EU has been a net importer of food. One of the most economically advanced regions on Earth, with some of the brightest scientists and most favorable agricultural and climactic conditions on the planet, isn’t able to grow enough food to feed its own population. The problem is destined to become much worse if Europe’s present fad for low-tech “organic-style” agroecology takes root. A recent study by a pro-agroecology group found that such practices would cut food production by an average of 35 percent on the Continent.

Clearly, European leaders look on Africa as the source of the organic, non-GMO food their food faddish populations so crave -- no matter how many Africans starve as a result.

[1] http://www.fao.org/3/I9049EN/i9049en.pdf; and, for example, Miguel Altieri, a member of the UN- FAO's Steering Committee of the Globally Indigenous Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) program with projects in Chile, Peru, Philippines, Kenya and other countries. [http://www3.uma.pt/isoplexis/consultores/CV_Miguel_Altieri.pdf]. In this paper [https://foodfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/JA11-The-Scaling-Up-of-Agroecology-Altieri.pdf] Altieri says the Green Revolution is a “failed” project that undermined the ability to address “the root causes of hunger.” He raises concerns about “unwanted gene flow from transgenic crops,” condemns “the concentration of global food production under the control of a few transnational corporations, bolstered by free trade agreements,” and promotes “peasant agriculture” as “the new basis for 21st Century agriculture.”

[2] Four others -- Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Swaziland -- have approved GMO cotton.

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