miércoles, 1 de septiembre de 2010

Biosafety Africa: DANGEROUS NEWS: The Gates Foundation and Cargill push Soya onto Africa

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a new project to
develop the soya value chain in Africa in partnership with American
NGO, TechnoServe and agricultural commodity trading giant Cargill. The
US$8 million project will be implemented as a four year pilot in
Mozambique and Zambia with the intention of spreading the model to
other regions in the future.

Download the briefing paper here...

The Gates Foundation continues to back agricultural strategies that
open new markets for strong corporate interests while assisting in the
creation of policy environments to support foreign agribusiness’
interests. The programme will yoke African farmers into the soya value
chain and open the door for major agribusiness players such as
Cargill, while displacing African agricultural practices and
traditional crops. In addition, there is a very real threat that this
project could be a foot in the door for the introduction of
genetically modified soya onto the Continent.

Since the green revolution of the 1960’s, soya bean has become the
number one forage crop on the international market. About 85% of the
world’s soybeans are processed into soya bean meal and oil, about
98% of that meal is further processed into animal feed, the balance is
used to make soya flour and proteins. Approximately 95% of the oil is
consumed as edible oil with the rest being used for industrial
products such as fatty acids, soaps and agrofuel. In the last 40
years, production of soya bean has increased by over 500%, driven by
the growing affluence of Chinese consumers, who are now eating more
meat than ever before, as well as a significant increase in demand for
soya beans as feedstock for biodiesel. In addition, soya beans fix
nitrogen in the soil, thereby improving soil fertility and making it
an excellent rotation crop.

The United States, Argentina and Brazil are the three major producers
of soya in the world. The aggressive expansion of soya monocrops in
Latin America has wreaked socio-economic and environmental disaster -
in 2008 over 30 million hectares of soya was grown in Brazil and
Argentina, where soya monocrops are notorious for displacing rural
populations and causing mass deforestation. In April 2006, Greenpeace
announced that in the 2004/2005 growing season, 1.2 million hectares
of the Amazon rainforest was deforested as a consequence of soya

The vast majority of global soya crops are genetically modified to
withstand applications of herbicides. (Approximately 93% of soya
production in the USA is GM, 98.9% in Argentina and 70.7% in Brazil).
The introduction of herbicide tolerant soya has created a sharp
increase in the use of highly toxic herbicides – in the USA the use
of herbicides has increased by 382.6 million pounds over the past 13
years, with herbicide tolerant soya beans accounting for 92% of that

No multinational on the planet has greater interests in soya
production and trade than the American corporation Cargill.
Cargill’s business operations include purchasing, processing and
distributing grain and agricultural commodities, the manufacture and
sale of livestock feed and ingredients for processed foods and
pharmaceuticals. Their assets and business operations in Latin America
are staggering; it is responsible for over 75% of Argentina’s grain
and oilseed production. It also has great interest in fertiliser
production, having a two-thirds stake in one of the world’s leading
fertiliser companies, Mosaic. Their business interests in Africa are
scant in contrast. It has now partnered with the Gates Foundation to
introduce a soya value chain in Africa.

The four year project will introduce soya production to 37 000
small-scale farmers in Mozambique and Zambia and aims to spread the
model to other regions in the future. The project will target
smallholder farmers and facilitate their access to agricultural inputs
and new technology, facilitate market access, assist in infrastructure
development and in developing enabling policies for investment.The
cultivation of soya in Africa is negligible, with Africa contributing
to less than 1% of global soya bean production. African countries that
produced over 100 000 tons of soya bean in 2008 are Nigeria, South
Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Nigeria is the biggest producer of soya
beans on the continent, harvesting a relatively modest 591 000 tons in
2008, mostly for domestic consumption. Egypt is the 13th biggest
importer of soya bean in the world, importing 1.2 million tons in 2008
and producing 219 800 tons of soya bean oil. Morocco also imports soya
for the production of oil and was the 19th largest importer of soya
bean in 2008. Demand for soya outstrips production in Africa, creating
the need to look outside of the region for commodities, predominantly
soya bean cake for animal feed, but also for oil, meal and
soya-derived products.

As demand for soya feed for the growing global livestock sector
increases, along with a growing interest in the crop for biofuel
production, soya is gaining influence as an attractive crop that is
worthy of investment. Global prices for vegetable oil are good and
this too, is attracting investment. There have been recent major
private investments in oil processing plants in Uganda and Mozambique
and investors are keen to contract local farmers to supply raw
materials. This model threatens to bring farmers into a high-risk
global market and shift agricultural practices from using local inputs
to reliance on agribusiness products.

A further threat is the introduction of genetically modified soya
into Africa. South Africa is the only country on the continent that is
growing genetically modified soya and has been doing so since 2001. In
2006, about 75% of the area planted to soya was genetically modified
and in 2008, approximately 88% of soya seed purchased was GM
<#_edn1> . In 2010, South Africa has begun exporting genetically
modified commodities to the rest of Africa for the first time. This is
as a result of the finalization of African biosafety legislation that
allows for the cultivation and import of GE crops and commodities. In
early 2010, the Mozambican government allowed for the commodity import
of 35,000 MT of GM soybeans <#_edn2> . This is the first such
permit authorised by the Executive Council in South Africa.

As the major global producers of soya have almost completely adopted
GM in their production, it is likely that there will be great pressure
for African farmers to adopt these seeds. The acceptance by the
Mozambican government of the first GE shipment of soya from South
Africa shows that their door is now open for African trade in GM soya,
although the road to environmental releases of crops will be a longer
and more arduous process. Zambia has traditionally been one of the
strongest forces against genetically modified seed on the continent,
taking an extremely cautious approach in its biosafety legislation. In
2002, the Zambian government rejected the import of GM food aid for
almost 3 million starving people <#_edn3> . It was an extremely
controversial decision, but after despatching a group of scientists to
investigate the safety of the crop, President Levy Mwanawasa held to
his convictions in the face of massive international pressure. Could
this support for the introduction of soya into the country be the
beginning of the erosion of that caution?

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