Does Ghana Have Anything to Fear From Monsanto?

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Hmmm… I think Ambolley wants me to write about Monsanto. Done!

Does Ghana – or Africa as a whole, for that matter – have anything to fear from Monsanto? The short answer is “yes”. Anytime a huge US conglomerate takes an active interest in developing nations or any geographic area perceived as being bereft of privilege, there is cause for concern.

I first heard about Monsanto while watching the documentary Food, Inc. I have to be honest: it was pretty terrifying stuff. The idea that one company had the power to change the face and nature of the types of food we eat, dictate how our crops are planted, and make farmers solely dependent on their agricultural products because the very nature of that product (i.e. seeds) had the capacity to alter the state of the very soil it was planted in so that nothing else but genetically modified seed could thrive there is a little disconcerting. The antics of the Greek god Ares come to mind, for some unexplained reason. I visualize carnage… carnage everywhere.

To hear a number of American farmers tell it, they feel “enslaved” to Monsanto. No doubt this sentiment arises from the voluminous contracts the company is the habit of handing out to those who be willing to make a deal with the Dark One. (You can read about it here.)

In fairness to Monsanto, the company has done some unquestionably impressive things in the realm of science since the company’s inception in 1901.  Some of its more harmless achievements include creating and selling the artificial sweetener saccharin to Coke; it became the first company to start mass production of (visible) light emitting diodes (LEDs); and it gave us AstroTurf, which is an imperative must at the Super Bowl.

aoHowever, some of its more sinister inventions include DDT (which eliminated malaria in America, but destroyed bald eagle shells, sending the population into decline), Agent Orange (the toxic effects of which still persist 51 years later) and lastly, genetically engineered seed.

It is the last component that I am most concerned about with regard to Ghana in particular and Africa as a whole.

There is no doubt that Africa has a problem feeding itself. It is estimated that every 5 seconds, a child dies from a hunger related disease.  As usual, and as it is with every African crisis, our leadership looks outside of its borders, way across the sea and into some Westerners science lab of carpeted office for solutions to the same problems that these labs and offices created. Enter Monsanto. And Bono. And Kofi Anan. And President Obama.

Looking at the lineup, we should trust all of the gentlemen. They are Nobel Laureates and by the world’s standards, very intelligent and well-meaning individuals. The trouble is none of these guys are farmers; for if they were farmers, they would know better than to engage in this sort of sanctimonious frivolity which has gotten the Western world nowhere but fat, sick and nearly dead.

We don’t have to go very far into the past to see the future effects of genetically modified food. Take a stroll around Any Mall, USA, and you can see the direct effects of bovine somatotropin, a hormone injected into cows pituitary glands to increase milk production. Bigger udders on cows = bigger boobs on little girls. Throw a Σ and a few Ωs in there, and you’ve got yourself an equation for disaster. Other unforeseen consequences of genetically modifying our foods in such an aggressive manner include indecent acts against these unnaturally buxom young ladies of the R. Kelly variety, which then translates to increased prosecution rates and overcrowding of our prisons.

But for the purposes of our discussion today, we are looking to Africa’s fertile land scape… not the waxy surfaces of North Point Mall.

From the little that I have read on genetically engineered seed (GES), I have learned that these plants are extremely aggressive. They take over native crop varieties and either strangle them or at best, cause them to mutate. There is also the alarming phenomenon of Monsanto seed – marketed as ‘Roundup’ – causing glyphosate resistance, whereby overuse of Roundup creates aggressive, herbicide-immune super-weeds. In turn, these super resistant weeds require more toxic chemicals in order to suppress them. It’s the agro-equivalent of Super Gonorrhea.

Ghana, along with Tanzania and Ethiopia, has signed on for Phase 2 of the so-called Green Revolution, which in simplest terms in the business of creating ‘higher yielding crops’ (not necessarily higher quality) in Africa.

This is where I get stuck… because it’s obvious that someone in the Kufuor/Mills/Mahama administration did not do their homework before inking this deal (as usual) and putting the farmers – our country’s backbone – at risk. I smell a kick back.

I can’t speak for other African nations, but the fact is, Ghana’s feeding problems have less to do with output than how to get the product to market. How often have you driven through a village and seen women and children scrambling to sell their wares to passers through? Depending on the topography, they will all be carrying similar items: okro, garden eggs, tomatoes, and/or pineapples. People in the villages who carry out subsistence farming eat very well. Ironically, they produce more than they need to get by. The failure of the government, private industry and other stakeholders has been in engaging these farmers in a meaningful way, and helping them bring their goods to market in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Ghanaians die not only from hunger, but from malnutrition in alarming and needless rates. Because the cost of transporting food is so high, our diet is severely limited to basic carbohydrate saturated staples like kenkey, gari, rice and over fried fish, when we need to be eating more greens, fruits and legumes – which are grown in abundance.  Tragically, every few months there are reports of crops tumbling from the sides of tipper trucks en masse, or worse, being left to rot in one production center or another because the lines of transportation were either ineffective or broken. Truthfully, there is no reason that a country that harbors iron ore in its hills and oil in its seas should not have an advanced rail system at the ready.

And now Ghana is going to let Monsanto come in with its high-bred GMOs to devastate the soil, alter our environment, and cause genetic mutations in our population because Obama and Bono said it’s an excellent idea? Tell me, someone, how do the major players plan to distribute this new-found genetically modified manna? On the wheels of ‘hope and change’? Pshaw!

Agriculture is big business, and there are billions of dollars at stake whenever these sorts of deals are hashed out. But at the other end of that of those negotiations also sits a mother who is trying to feed her family. How much consideration is she being given?

*****

I know that there are quite a few scientists and health professionals that read MOM but rarely comment. Don’t make me call you out *cough* Stella and Karimi! *end cough*.  Would you be so kind as to share your views on GMOs, either good or bad, and enlighten us all here?  I’m only writing about it because Gyedu asked me to.

I know that Misty (yes, I called you out) is also a big champion of organic food. I’d like her and other parents like her to share what influenced her to make these choices.

Oh heck. Everyone just speak all at once here ↓

  • Hello Abena!

    I am so excited that you wrote this post and definitely will be reblogging it. The fact of the matter is just as you have stated it. We don’t need GMOs and we are just the happy-go-lucky African nation that all the westerners can convince to sign ANYTHING. A few week ago a scientist from CSIR was giving a lecture on GMOs and was totally convinced it was what we need. Why? Because that’s ‘the way the world is headed’. We can’t even be original in our farming. Such a shame. Thanks again for bringing this out. We will fight tooth and nail against Mosasnto.

    • We absolutely must! I have and always maintain that Ghana was green and self-sustaining before the Western powers that be dumped their eco and now agro-waste on us. And what nonsense about ‘this is the way the world is going’. There is a groundswell movement against the use if GMOs in the American food supply and certain countries in the EU and Israel have prohibited their use.
      Look at all the contaminants that are in our beef alone. Pink slime, mad cow disease, etc. We are being used as guinea pigs so Big Agro can make a buck. We’re better off adopting a Swedish model of farm to table… growing what you need and trading the rest; which is what our ancestors wisely did in the first place! More is not always better.
      I’d have more faith in that scientist’s assertions if not for the fact that Westerners are just unhealthy over all.

  • “the fact is, Ghana’s feeding problems have less to do with output than how to get the product to market”<<<<, That pretty much said it all for me. Thanks.

  • “Control the food supply and you control the people.”
    When you farm with Monsanto, you farm with the Devil! They are buying seed companies in order to dominate the world market. Whomever controls the seeds controls the food! They have their hands in 70% of the food on the store shelves. Did you know that?

    I remember when I was growing up and there were hardly any overweight children around. Now looking at the children today, you see that a large majority of them have health problems that were minutely existent twenty to thirty years ago. When I went to school there were only 5 overweight students in the WHOLE SCHOOL of 300+ children! Now fast forward to today and you can see how it has flipped to the opposite.

    I could tell you that it began with the era of fast food restaurants and convenience “out of a box” cooking. When you don’t know (or care) where your food is coming from, nor how or who grows it, then you are disconnected from the food chain. “They” could put anything into your box of “Helper or Dr. Soda” and you’d eat it. Half of society won’t read the label on the shelf because they don’t care to comprehend what is in there and what it can do to your body.
    The big corporations DON’T CARE what is going on. They want your money and will sicken you to do it. The additives and other flavorings that are in food are there so you become addicted and desire to have that nutritionally deficient piece of cardboard crap again and again! Our bodies are becoming altered at genetic levels by being flooded with this bad stuff and are fighting back to heal themselves. They can’t if there is no “real” food to do this with. Look at how some people cannot get through the day without a “Mooncents” coffee.
    Children crave nuggets, they only eat macaroni & cheese, pizza or hot dogs! They won’t touch a vegetable that isn’t fried or white! Taste buds have been numbed by ketchup, flaming hot Cretoes, extra fat and extra sugar.
    We all need to be involved with our meals- eat something that was grown, not processed. Cut up that carrot, mash your own potato, “FRY” YOUR OWN CHICKEN (spray it with oil and bake it in the oven). It takes 5 minutes to cook some oats- use a little brown sugar, raisins and cinnamon. Get your family to help when cooking- mine HAVE TO learn how to cook. They all have their specialties- even the 5 yr old! They know where their food comes from and how to tell what is good for them. Yerp, I can say we have fast fooded this week, but I can honestly say that we cooked the majority of our meals also.
    Give up something so you can get organic foods at the store. Stop by that roadside stand or go to the farmers market. Get a bucket and grow some tomatoes on your patio.
    Ultimately, We ARE RESPONSIBLE for ourselves. Government and big businesses don’t care for anything but profit. We need to say “No” to this madness, stop being lab experiments and take back control of our lives.
    Don’t let Monsanto poison the world.

  • Reblogged this on The Green Ghanaian and commented:
    A very engaging post by our friend Malaka on genetically modified foods and Mosanto. Please read and comment!

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  • Malaka –

    I’d love to repost this on a collection of writing I’m editing for Medium called African Makers, focusing on innovation in social welfare, business, and tech around the continent. You offer a great analysis of some of the perils of “development assistance” from the likes of USAID, and I think it’s a great appeal to rely more on local agriculture know-how and resources. What’s the best way to get in touch with you?

    In the meantime, check out http://www.medium.com/african-makers

  • Malaka,

    I’d love to re-post this blog entry on a collection of writing I’m editing for Medium called African Makers, focusing on innovation in business and social welfare around the continent. I think you offer a great analysis of the perils of “development assistance” from the likes of Monsanto, and a powerful appeal for leaders to rely more on local agricultural know-how and resources.

    What’s the best way to get in touch with you ? You can reach me with this username on gmail.com.

    In the meantime, feel free to check out the Medium collection here: https://medium.com/african-makers

    Cheers,

    Rowan

    • I will contact you so that we can discuss the details and take a look at the site as well.

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