GMO Supporters Silence Debate

On August 7 the University of Cape Coast is hosting a forum on GMOs. This is not a genuine debate, but a collection of speakers who are all invested in the pro-GMO biotechnology industry through their careers and their education. They are not neutral or objective observers and will present only one side of the debate. They are not interested in finding the truth, unlike genuine scientists, and do not want to allow any opinions but their own.

The organizers will call these forums they organize neutral platforms to facilitate intellectual discourse. They will then present an entirely one sided roster of speakers and censor any actual intellectual debate. If called out on this flagrant prevention of any actual discussion or debate, they behave puzzled and hurt, like they don’t understand why anyone would be annoyed.

The speakers are all closely associated with the donors who are promoting GMOs into Ghana. Donors play the critical role in introducing GMOs into African countries.

“[T]hey fund research projects and pay staff salaries, they create and support regulatory institutions, they dictate research priorities and direction, and they construct and fund promotional campaigns. While the money comes from elsewhere, intellectual allies in [Ghana] carry out most of the work: research scientists and lobbyists become enrolled in the campaign for biotechnology, advancing the interests of donors who fund their salaries and programs.

These organic intellectuals serve the interests of the dominant class to which they belong, acting as ideological deputies who facilitate and enable the consolidation of the hegemonic project by generating widespread consent and collapsing society’s general interests with their own … In this way ‘a particular ideology… born in a highly developed country, is disseminated in less developed countries, impinging on the local interplay of combinations’.

While multilateral organizations (such as the World Bank) and philanthropic organizations (such as the Gates Foundation) all play significant roles in sustaining the consensus towards GM, USAID is, by far, the most important actor funding, coordinating, and advancing the interests of the biotechnology bloc.”

The lead organization in this donor driven GMO push is USAID working with the Program for Biosafety Systems, PBS.

“PBS is an IFPRI-managed program (International Food Policy Research Institute), formed in 2002 and funded through USAID’s Collaborative Biotechnology Initiative (CABIO).” They operate in a number of African countries targeted by the biotechnology agribusiness industry as insertion points for GMOs into Africa. Ghana is one of these targeted countries.

In Ghana, keep in mind, “USAID is, by far, the most important actor funding, coordinating, and advancing the interests of the biotechnology bloc.” USAID has been tasked by the G8 to promote GMOs into Ghana in the guise of The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Ghana.

According to a new working paper published by the World Policy Forum, the approach and objectives of the G8 New Alliance, G8NA, are highly problematic. The initiative serves as an enforcing mechanism for corporate driven blueprints for agriculture and sidelines national plans and international standards. It is dominated and tailored towards the interests of big corporate actors and is based on a reductionist approach of agricultural “development”. And lastly, the G8NA is poorly institutionalized and disregards fundamental principles of transparency participation and accountability.

We have seen how little the GMO proponents want any participation from citizens, and want no accountability to the public in Ghana with the way legislation such as the Plant Breeders Bill has been pushed through Parliament.

During the G8NA introduction of GMOs into Uganda, when articles in the Uganda press pointed out some of the unpleasant truths about GMOs, at first scientists wrote their own counter articles. Then the “PBS’ Coordinator felt these knee-jerk responses were a mistake, … ‘it becomes a debate and we don’t want that’”.

The same is true in Ghana. The pro-GMO position is they do not want a debate. Remember that, pro-GMO interests do not want debate. Just as independent testing of GMOs is prohibited by contract and therefore by law, pro-GMO interests don’t want debate because it may reveal unpleasant truths.

These forums were set up precisely to avoid any genuine debate. In the three day forum in July sponsored by GAAS only one speaker was not a supporter of GMOs. The rest of the speakers were uniformly in support of GMOs. No speaker discussed the needs of the farmers, and farmers were not permitted to speak. One scientist speaking said no one would want their children to be farmers.

The August 7 forum appears to be more of the same, a one sided presentation masquerading as debate.

Agriculture scientists depend on agribusiness and the donor organizations for their education and project funding. If they don’t support GMOs where will they find employment? The government needs agricultural expertise, but as recent events reveal, the government has no money. So we don’t blame the scientists for clinging to the hope that GMOs give them. That does not change the fact that we need to hear more voices and need a balanced debate.

When will Ghanaian farmers, consumers and citizens be heard!

For Life, the Environment, and Social Justice!

Jason Tutu
Communications Lead, FSG
Email: [email protected]>,

All quotations come from a study of how genetically modified crops are inserted into African markets, done in Uganda by Matthew A. Schnurr, and published in the:

Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 40, 2013
Biotechnology and bio-hegemony in Uganda: Unraveling the social relations underpinning the promotion of genetically modified crops into new African markets

pp 639-658

Corporate influence through the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa

Working paper
Author: Wolfgang Obenland
Published by Global Policy Forum/Brot für die Welt/MISEREOR

Aachen/Berlin/Bonn/New York, August 2014
ISBN 978-3-943126-18-1
Download the Working Paper

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