Monsanto and GMO Seed Patenting: the Ultimate in Market Protectionism

30 Jun

It’s not often we read things like this about genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the Tanzanian press, so it’s good that Pambazuka are on the case. The article is subtitled ‘opinion’. If only the same were true of the maunderings from politicians and pundits, who invariably know little about the subject and talk as if they have been paid off to say what the GMO industry wants them to say.

A member of the opposition party, Halima Mdee of the Chadema party, has called on the Tanzanian government to sever its relations with Monsanto. Monsanto has its thieving little fingers in a number of pies in Tanzania, including the Gates Foundation’s Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (which includes a number of well-heeled token Africans on its board, such as Kofi Annan) and the US government’s Feed the Future (which is dominated by GMO industry partners and collaborators).

Mdee has drawn attention to how unsuccessful GMO crops have been in other countries, including the US, where there have been serious environmental probems, such as the contamination of non-GMO crops and huge increases in the use of glyphosate, the use of which inevitably results in resistant weeds that require ever increasing quantities of the destructive chemical. (Naturally, these are ‘externalities’, losses to the environment, society and the electorate a whole, as well as to the non-GMO farmers who refused to sell out to the likes of Monsanto. Monsanto and other GMO beneficiaries have been doing fine, thank you for asking.)

Shadow Agriculture Minister Rose Kamili joined her colleague to point out that GMO crops have been banned in India because of the destruction they have wreaked there, and continue to wreak. Apparently Monsanto is putting pressure on anyone they fear may get in their way and lobbying for legislation to be changed in their favor.

There are some notable exceptions who are standing up to Monsanto and the push for GMO, which is virtually irreversible once it has contaminated environments, and is completely incompatible with organic practices. The Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO) is one such group, representing the interests of indigenous and international organizations that are opposed to GMOs.

Apparently the Prime Minister and the President have come out in favor of GMOs and it is implied that those objecting to this form of market control are therefore opposed to technology, economic growth and science, a bunch of non sequiturs that bears the unmistakable fingerprints of Monsanto and other purveyors of GMOs.

The threat to biodiversity and food sovereignty posed by GMOs is generally ignored by defenders, who like to claim that their efforts are irrelevant to biodiversity and are intended to increase food stocks in developing countries. However, Tanzanians would be well aware that when they lack food it is because they can not afford it, not because there is a shortage.

The idea that allowing control of the means of agricultural production to pass from Tanzanian people to a rich multinational would thereby empower those people, reduce poverty and improve access to food is ridiculous, and must be self-evidently contradictory to those who have taken time to think about it. But since articles that tell the truth about GMOs are so rarely published here, it’s not surprising that people can not always spot the contradiction.

Using the drug pusher model, which is similar to the formula milk model, the GMO barons are claiming that GMO seeds will be distributed free of charge in Tanzania and other African countries. Of course, they will be distributed free of charge. But once they are grown here in large quantities they will contaminate all the crops around them. Then Monsanto and the other GMO vultures will be able to claim royalties on their intellectual property and effect a monopoly on seed stocks for staple crops. If there are non-GMO seeds available, they will become contaminated soon enough.


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