Friday, July 18, 2008

Genetically Modified Foods - The Good The Bad And TheUgly

The East African Standard can now reveal that mysterious seeds whose sale is being monitored by secret agents are being sold in Kenya.

This is scary but hardly surprising. Like a lot of other desirables and undesirables from the west, Genetically Engineered Foods are finding their way into African Markets and African Governments and the people as a whole are being urged to embrace the technology. Biotech companies are selling the idea of GM foods as the savior of the world in the wake of population explosion, droughts and severe food shortages. Super crops with enhanced nutritional value and resistance to pesticides and drought. Super seeds that produce higher yields thus ensuring higher financial returns. Super seeds with bug and weed killing capabilities so that farmers spend less time spraying and manually extracting weeds. Just what the doctor ordered for Africa which suffers the most severe food shortages.

GM food companies don’t come any bigger or any more sinister than Monsanto – a US Agricultural giant and world leader in genetic modification of seeds. Monsanto is spreading it’s tentacles all over the world, Kenya included, and radically altering agricultural practices as we know them. The company is known for some bone chilling practices and the characteristic vice-grip they have on the farmers they deal with. It’s no wonder that their agents are profiling and secretly storing personal data of unsuspecting farmers who buy seeds from them. If their activities in the US are anything to go by, we may soon have a scenario where local farmers are slapped with lawsuits or penalties for breaking this big brother’s rules. Perhaps Monsanto’s most controversial contribution as far as agriculture is concerned is the terminator gene – a gene engineered to make plants kill their seeds so that farmers have to purchase new seeds every time they want to plant.

Chances are we have all eaten generically modified foods either knowingly or unknowingly because a lot of times it’s challenging to separate engineered and non-engineered foods. For instance, Nakumatt and other leading stores are awash with products like soya beans, soya mince, soya chunks, and powdered beverage soya among others. Some of these products are imported from the US which is one of the biggest producers of Soya beans. So if the beans from different areas are pooled together for processing and packaging, how then can we, the consumers isolate the un-engineered version? To the layman, the foods look identical and can only be told apart through laboratory analysis. Do our stores and supermarkets have the capacity to sort, isolate and label GM foods so that consumers can only eat them by choice? And are consumers sensitized enough to read labels in the first place? It’s only fair that we know what we’re eating. Soya is just an example and one can avoid it. But what about foods like maize and it's products?

As much as science is getting braver and braver, it needs to know how far is too far. It is one thing to clone a sheep but quite another to make unsuspecting consumers eat foods whose effects on human health have not been fully established. Otherwise the cost on human health could turn out to be something the world is not prepared to deal with.

Someone may soon have absolute control over what you put on your plate.


Anonymous said...

personally i have no idea, not a single idea about GM food but i think if those seeds are being supplied 'sectrely' then sth is very wrong. i was watching BBC news the other day and they were talking about people here in the west are worried about its long time effects even tho some still use GM foods. that says it all.

Anonymous said...

eeerr...and yes am back!!!!

Shiko-Msa said...

Neema gal! Where've you been? I thought those manenos on your side had weighed you down too much.

Same here I've watched and read quite a bit about GM foods and sometimes it gets a bit scary. Now if we're eating them unknowingly then it's bad. I wish we could just eat the foods as God provided them - natural.

Welcome back Neema.

BP ONE said...

Shiko, surprisingly, it’s not only what is on our plate they want to control but also the milk in our glass.
“Monsanto also tinkers in the milk production game with its now-familiar products rBST/rBGH, an artificial growth hormone that increases milk production”.
I guess, to them we just guinea pigs.

seinlife said...

Good Post! A while back i blogged about Monsanto role in tampering with milk here in the US - check it out here.
If the FDA has a had time regulating food here in the US, imagine the nightmare that will be when all these genetically modified and potentially harmful products hit the african market!
I hope the 'secrets agent' are equivalent to the FDA or did you mean they are part of the Monsanto team? Hope NOT....

Kirima said...

This is a topic with too many questions but very few answers even kina Monsanto cannot give a truthful answer as to all the effects of GM food. On the whole I wouldn't advocate ignoring them research must continue on their use and effects, conventional agriculture with its heavy reliance on fertilizers and pesticides is not clean either. Organic farming is the most attractive option but its also too romantic a notion that it can sustain a hungry and growing world population.
As demonised as GM food is it may be useful in solving food security problems. What I find reprehensible is no GM perse but the commercial propriety GMO's with patent restrictions that make farmers slaves to giant corporations. what the world needs is research on 'open source GMO's' (Ubuntu like)

BP ONE said...

I suspect the 'secrets agent' mention are the Monsanto’s own investigative division known as the “seed police,” an outsourced surveillance firm hired to spy on farmers, co-ops and general stores.

Shiko-Msa said...

BP other than the milk monsanto is also into vegetables like lettuce, carrots etc etc and have already purchased several smaller seed companies to expand themselves. They're everywhere even in the Arab world.

Seinlife thanks for the link. Infact there has been suspicion in the past that the west is dumping their unsold GM foods in Africa. So the products are most likely already here. The secret agents are part of the Monsanto team as BP says.

Kirima it is with these patents that they're terrorizing farmers in the US. But the farmers there are more enlightened. God knows what our dear farmers here would do if slapped with lawsuits maybe for saving seeds to plant in the next season - something they've done for generations.

The GM foods are demonized because they're suspected to harm human health. True already we're harmed in lots of ways even without GM foods. Eg we're already eating chicken stuffed with hormones to grow up and get slaughtered in 6 weeks. But we have a choice. One could avoid kenchic or nandos. But maize? Milk?

Mcheku said...

For Monsanto and all the other genetic food modifiers, it is all about the money. They dont do research on the long term effects of their products.The problem with some of those things are that diseases may manifest themselves after a while so it is up to us to choose what the lesser evil is, having a sick cancerous generation in twenty to thirty years time or saving our dear hunger-stricken continent from immediate death?

However, I contend it is wrong for these people to sell these things secretly, let our people have the knowledge and the choice to buy or not to buy.