Friday 31 May 2013

America’s GM Grain Surpluses: Sowing the Seeds of Famine in Ethiopia

First Read;

Battle over Mosanto’s GMOs in Uganda : Civil society petition EALA over biosafety Bill

Mosanto’s seeds of deception

America’s GM Grain Surpluses: Sowing the Seeds of Famine in Ethiopia

Global Research, May 25, 2013

his article, which describes how genetically modified seeds granted as “food aid” was instrumental in triggering famine. It was first published in The Ecologist in September 2000. It was one the first articles published on Global Research in September 2001.  It was also published as a chapter in the second edition of Michel Chossudovsky’s “Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order

The “economic therapy” imposed under IMF-World Bank jurisdiction is in large part responsible for triggering famine and social devastation in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, wreaking the peasant economy and impoverishing millions of people.

With the complicity of branches of the US government, it has also opened the door for the appropriation of traditional seeds and landraces by US biotech corporations, which behind the scenes have been peddling the adoption of their own genetically modified seeds under the disguise of emergency aid and famine relief.

Moreover, under WTO rules, the agri-biotech conglomerates can manipulate market forces to their advantage as well as exact royalties from farmers. The WTO provides legitimacy to the food giants to dismantle State programmes including emergency grain stocks, seed banks, extension services and agricultural credit, etc.), plunder peasant economies and trigger the outbreak of periodic famines.

Crisis in the Horn

More than 8 million people in Ethiopia – representing 15% of the country’s population – had been locked into “famine zones”. Urban wages have collapsed and unemployed seasonal farm workers and landless peasants have been driven into abysmal poverty. The international relief agencies concur without further examination that climatic factors are the sole and inevitable cause of crop failure and the ensuing humanitarian disaster. What the media tabloids fails to disclose is that – despite the drought and the border war with Eritrea – several million people in the most prosperous agricultural regions have also been driven into starvation. Their predicament is not the consequence of grain shortages but of “free markets” and “bitter economic medicine” imposed under the IMF-World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

Ethiopia produces more than 90% of its consumption needs. Yet at the height of the crisis, the nationwide food deficit for 2000 was estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at 764,000 metric tons of grain representing a shortfall of 13 kilos per person per annum.1 In Amhara, grain production (1999-2000) was twenty percent in excess of consumption needs. Yet 2.8 million people in Amhara (representing 17% of the region’s population) became locked into famine zones and are “at risk” according to the FAO. 2 Whereas Amhara’s grain surpluses were in excess of 500,000 tons (1999-2000), its “relief food needs” had been tagged by the international community at close to 300,000 tons.3 A similar pattern prevailed in Oromiya, the country’s most populated state where 1.6 million people were classified “at risk”, despite the availability of more than 600,000 metric tons of surplus grain.4 In both these regions, which include more than 25% of the country’s population, scarcity of food was clearly not the cause of hunger, poverty and social destitution. Yet no explanations are given by the panoply of international relief agencies and agricultural research institutes.

The Promise of the “Free Market”

In Ethiopia, a transitional government came into power in 1991 in the wake of a protracted and destructive civil war. After the pro-Soviet Dergue regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam was unseated, a multi-donor financed Emergency Recovery and Reconstruction Project (ERRP) was hastily put in place to deal with an external debt of close to 9 billion dollars that had accumulated during the Mengistu government. Ethiopia’s outstanding debts with the Paris Club of official creditors were rescheduled in exchange for far-reaching macro-economic reforms. Upheld by US foreign policy, the usual doses of bitter IMF economic medicine were prescribed. Caught in the straightjacket of debt and structural adjustment, the new Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – largely formed from the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (PLF) – had committed itself to far-reaching “free market reforms”, despite its leaders’ Marxist leanings. Washington soon tagged Ethiopia alongside Uganda as Africa’s post Cold War free market showpiece.

While social budgets were slashed under the structural adjustment programme (SAP), military expenditure – in part financed by the gush of fresh development loans – quadrupled since 1989.5 With Washington supporting both sides in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, US arms sales spiralled. The bounty was being shared between the arms manufacturers and the agribusiness conglomerates. In the post-Cold War era, the latter positioned themselves in the lucrative procurement of emergency aid to war-torn countries. With mounting military spending financed on borrowed money, almost half of Ethiopia’s export revenues was earmarked to meet debt-servicing obligations.

A Policy Framework Paper (PFP) stipulating the precise changes to be carried out in Ethiopia had been carefully drafted in Washington by IMF and World Bank officials on behalf of the transitional government, and was forwarded to Addis Ababa for the signature of the Minister of Finance. The enforcement of severe austerity measures virtually foreclosed the possibility of a meaningful post-war reconstruction and the rebuilding of the country’s shattered infrastructure. The creditors demanded trade liberalization and the full-scale privatization of public utilities, financial institutions, State farms and factories. Civil servants including teachers and health workers were fired, wages were frozen and the labor laws were rescinded to enable State enterprises “to shed their surplus workers”. Meanwhile, corruption became rampant. State assets were auctioned off to foreign capital at bargain prices and Price Waterhouse Cooper was entrusted with the task of coordinating the sale of State property.

In turn, the reforms had led to the fracture of the federal fiscal system. Budget transfers to the State governments were slashed leaving the regions to their own devices. Supported by several donors, “regionalization” was heralded as a “devolution of powers from the federal to the regional governments”. The Bretton Woods institutions knew exactly what they were doing. In the words of the IMF, “[the regions] capacity to deliver effective and efficient development interventions varies widely, as does their capacity for revenue collection”. 6

Wrecking the Peasant Economy

Patterned on the reforms adopted in Kenya in 1991 (see Box 9.1 ), agricultural markets were wilfully manipulated on behalf of the agribusiness conglomerates. The World Bank demanded the rapid removal of price controls and all subsidies to farmers. Transportation and freight prices were deregulated serving to boost food prices in remote areas affected by drought. In turn, the markets for farm inputs including fertiliser and seeds were handed over to private traders including Pioneer Hi-Bred International which entered into a lucrative partnership with Ethiopia Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly.7

At the outset of the reforms in 1992, USAID under its Title III program “donated” large quantities of US fertilizer “in exchange for free market reforms”:

[V]arious agricultural commodities [will be provided] in exchange for reforms of grain marketing… and [the] elimination of food subsidies…The reform agenda focuses on liberalization and privatization in the fertilizer and transport sectors in return for financing fertilizer and truck imports…. These program initiatives have given us [an] “entrĂ©e” …in defining major [policy] issues… 8

While the stocks of donated US fertiliser were rapidly exhausted; the imported chemicals contributed to displacing local fertiliser producers. The same companies involved in the fertiliser import business were also in control of the domestic wholesale distribution of fertiliser using local level merchants as intermediaries.

Increased output was recorded in commercial farms and in irrigated areas (where fertilizer and high yielding seeds had been applied). The overall tendency, however, was towards greater economic and social polarisation in the countryside, marked by significantly lower yields in less productive marginal lands occupied by the poor peasantry. Even in areas where output had increased, farmers were caught in the clutch of the seed and fertilizer merchants.

In 1997, the Atlanta based Carter Center – which was actively promoting the use of biotechnology tools in maize breeding – proudly announced that “Ethiopia [had] become a food exporter for the first time”.9 Yet in a cruel irony, the donors ordered the dismantling of the emergency grain reserves (set up in the wake of the 1984-85 famine) and the authorities acquiesced.

Instead of replenishing the country’s emergency food stocks, grain was exported to meet Ethiopia’s debt servicing obligations. Close to one million tons of the 1996 harvest was exported, an amount which would have been amply sufficient (according to FAO figures) to meet the 1999-2000 emergency. In fact the same food staple which had been exported (namely maize) was re-imported barely a few months later. The world market had confiscated Ethiopia’s grain reserves.

In return, US surpluses of genetically engineered maize (banned by the European Union) were being dumped on the horn of Africa in the form of emergency aid. The US had found a convenient mechanism for “laundering its stocks of dirty grain”. The agribusiness conglomerates not only cornered Ethiopia’s commodity exports, they were also involved in the procurement of emergency shipments of grain back into Ethiopia. During the 1998-2000 famine, lucrative maize contracts were awarded to giant grain merchants such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill Inc. 10

Laundering America’s GM Grain Surpluses

US grain surpluses peddled in war-torn countries also served to weaken the agricultural system. Some 500,000 tons of maize and maize products were “donated” in 1999-2000 by USAID to relief agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP) which in turn collaborates closely with the US Department of Agriculture. At least 30% of these shipments (procured under contract with US agribusiness firms) were surplus genetically modified grain stocks. 11

Boosted by the border war with Eritrea and the plight of thousands of refugees, the influx of contaminated food aid had contributed to the pollution of Ethiopia’s genetic pool of indigenous seeds and landraces. In a cruel irony, the food giants were at the same time gaining control – through the procurement of contaminated food aid – over Ethiopia’s seed banks. According to South Africa’s Biowatch: “Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world…To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid.” 12

Moreover, part of the “food aid” had been channelled under the “food for work” program which served to further discourage domestic production in favour of grain imports. Under this scheme, impoverished and landless farmers were contracted to work on rural infrastructural programmes in exchange for “donated” US corn.

Meanwhile, the cash earnings of coffee smallholders plummeted. Whereas Pioneer Hi-Bred positioned itself in seed distribution and marketing, Cargill Inc established itself in the markets for grain and coffee through its subsidiary Ethiopian Commodities.12 For the more than 700,000 smallholders with less than 2 hectares that produce between 90 and 95% of the country’s coffee output, the deregulation of agricultural credit combined with low farmgate prices of coffee had triggered increased indebtedness and landlessness, particularly in East Gojam (Ethiopia’s breadbasket).

Biodiversity up for Sale

The country’s extensive reserves of traditional seed varieties (barley, teff, chick peas, sorghum, etc) were being appropriated, genetically manipulated and patented by the agribusiness conglomerates: “Instead of compensation and respect, Ethiopians today are …getting bills from foreign companies that have “patented” native species and now demand payment for their use.”13 The foundations of a “competitive seed industry” were laid under IMF and World Bank auspices.14 The Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly joined hands with Pioneer Hi-Bred in the distribution of hi-bred and genetically modified (GM) seeds (together with hybrid resistant herbicide) to smallholders. In turn, the marketing of seeds had been transferred to a network of private contractors and “seed enterprises” with financial support and technical assistance from the World Bank. The “informal” farmer-to-farmer seed exchange was slated to be converted under the World Bank programme into a “formal” market oriented system of “private seed producer-sellers.” 15

In turn, the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EARI) was collaborating with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the development of new hybrids between Mexican and Ethiopian maize varieties.16 Initially established in the 1940s by Pioneer Hi-Bred International with support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, CIMMYT developed a cosy relationship with US agribusiness. Together with the UK based Norman Borlaug Institute, CIMMYT constitutes a research arm as well as a mouthpiece of the seed conglomerates. According to the Rural Advancement Foundation (RAFI) “US farmers already earn $150 million annually by growing varieties of barley developed from Ethiopian strains. Yet nobody in Ethiopia is sending them a bill.” 17

Impacts of Famine

The 1984-85 famine had seriously threatened Ethiopia’s reserves of landraces of traditional seeds. In response to the famine, the Dergue government through its Plant Genetic Resource Centre –in collaboration with Seeds of Survival (SoS)– had implemented a programme to preserve Ethiopia’s biodiversity.18 This programme – which was continued under the transitional government – skilfully “linked on-farm conservation and crop improvement by rural communities with government support services”. 19 An extensive network of in-farm sites and conservation plots was established involving some 30,000 farmers. In 1998, coinciding chronologically with the onslaught of the 1998-2000 famine, the government clamped down on seeds of Survival (SoS) and ordered the programme to be closed down. 20

The hidden agenda was to eventually displace the traditional varieties and landraces reproduced in village-level nurseries. The latter were supplying more than 90 percent of the peasantry through a system of farmer-to-farmer exchange. Without fail, the 1998-2000 famine led to a further depletion of local level seed banks: “The reserves of grains [the farmer] normally stores to see him through difficult times are empty. Like 30,000 other households in the [Galga] area, his family have also eaten their stocks of seeds for the next harvest.”21 And a similar process was unfolding in the production of coffee where the genetic base of the arabica beans was threatened as a result of the collapse of farmgate prices and the impoverishment of small-holders.

In other words, the famine – itself in large part a product of the economic reforms imposed to the advantage of large corporations by the IMF, World Bank and the US Government – served to undermine Ethiopia’s genetic diversity to the benefit of the biotech companies. With the weakening of the system of traditional exchange, village level seed banks were being replenished with commercial hi-bred and genetically modified seeds. In turn, the distribution of seeds to impoverished farmers had been integrated with the “food aid” programmes. WPF and USAID relief packages often include “donations” of seeds and fertiliser, thereby favouring the inroad of the agribusiness-biotech companies into Ethiopia’s agricultural heartland. The emergency programs are not the “solution” but the “cause” of famine. By deliberately creating a dependency on GM seeds, they had set the stage for the outbreak of future famines.

This destructive pattern – invariably resulting in famine – is replicated throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. From the onslaught of the debt crisis of the early 1980s, the IMF-World Bank had set the stage for the demise of the peasant economy across the region with devastating results. Now, in Ethiopia, fifteen years after the last famine left nearly one million dead, hunger is once again stalking the land. This time, as eight million people face the risk of starvation, we know that it isn’t just the weather that is to blame.


  1. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Special Report: FAO/WFP Crop Assessment Mission to Ethiopia, Rome, January 2000.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Philip Sherwell and Paul Harris, “Guns before Grain as Ethiopia Starves, Sunday Telegraph, London, April 16, 2000.
  6. IMF, Ethiopia, Recent Economic Developments, Washington, 1999.
  7. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, General GMO Facts,
  8. United States agency for International Development (USAID), “Mission to Ethiopia, Concept Paper: Back to The Future”, Washington, June 1993
  9. Carter Center, Press release, Atlanta, Georgia, January 31, 1997.
  10. Declan Walsh, America Find Ready Market for GM Food, The Independent, London, March 30, 2000, p. 18).
  11. Ibid.
  12. Maja Wallegreen, “The World’s Oldest Coffee Industry In Transition”, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, November 1, 1999.
  13. Laeke Mariam Demissie, A vast historical contribution counts for little; West reaps Ethiopia’s genetic harvest, World Times, October, 1998).
  14. World Bank, Ethiopia-Seed Systems Development Project, Project ID ETPA752, 6 June 1995.
  15. Ibid
  16. See CIMMYT Research Plan and Budget 2000-2002
  17. Laeke Mariam Demissie, op. cit
  18. “When local farmers know best”, The Economist, 16 May 1998)
  19. Ibid
  20. Laeke Mariam Demissie, op. cit.
  21. Rageh Omaar, “Hunger stalks Ethiopia’s dry land”, BBC, London, 6 January, 2000.
  22. An earlier version of this article was published in The Ecologist, September 2000

Reverse psychology: Using the government media to dupe us into believing that the Uganda Government has no connection to the M23 rebels : Uganda arrests suspect recruiting for M23 rebels

 New president of the M23 rebel movement, Bertrand Bisimwa (in orange tie)

First Read:

Fooling us about Uganda’s neutrality in the Congo Conflict!!! Militarizing the Congo to help USA and allies to rape Congo resources: DRC troops, civilians fleeing to Uganda after rebel clashes

There goes the Confusion again: Fighting in eastern DR Congo between M23 rebels and government forces leaves 19 dead

Bishop Jean Marie Runiga, Becomes a spokes person for the M23: Using Confusion, misinformation and disinformation to Hide the Central role of USA, her allies and client states in the Conflict in the ‘Democratic’ republic of Congo(DRC)

 Jesus’ rebel??? Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga the spokes person of M23 rebels admits visiting Kampala but says they will not leave Goma

Congo rebel leader, Col. Sultani Makenga sneaks into Kampala

Uganda arrests suspect recruiting for M23 rebels

Publish Date: May 31, 2013

By Vision Reporter

Authorities in the western district of Kiruhura have arrested a 32-year-old man suspected of recruiting Ugandans into the Congolese M23 rebel group activities.

According to the District Police Commander, Norman Musinga, the suspect Reuben Kamuhangi was arrested at Kyapa trading centre in Kiruhura district.

Kamuhangi is a resident of Nyankumba cell, Sanga Sub County, Kiruhura district.

 Police said he was arrested as he was preparing to transport the six 6 ‘recruits’ to Democratic Republic of Congo after promising them a monthly pay of sh350, 000.

The recruits are identified as Albert Muyambi, 24, of Bukanga in Isingiro district, a 19-year- old Livingstone Mafundo and Daniel Ntambara, 32, of Sembabule district. Others are Emmanuel Gumisiriza, 19, Katojo Marongo of Lwengo district, Julias Byabashaija, 35, of Kyidera in Kamuli district and 23-year-old James Murisa a Rwandase national.  

 Musinga said they have mounted a search for Sam Baguma who is alleged to have been working closely with Kamuhangi in the recruitment.  

The March 23 Movement (French: Mouvement du 23-Mars), often abbreviated as M23 and also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army, is a rebel military group based in eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), mainly operating in the province of North Kivu.

The group is currently involved in an armed conflict with the DRC government which has led to the displacement of large numbers of people.

 On 20 November 2012, M23 took control of Goma, a provincial capital with a population of one million people, but was requested to evacuate it by ICGLR as DRC government had finally agreed to negotiate with them.

On 23 March 2009, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) signed a peace treaty with the DRC government, where it became a political party, and the M23 soldiers integrated into the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).

M23 takes its name from the date of these peace accords (March 23). The armed wing of the group is led by General Makenga Sultani, who has served as acting president of the group since the 28 February 2013 removal of Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero, a former CNDP member.


The story below aims at fooling the world into believing that there are genuine factions inside the M23. When the truth is that the USA and its allies are the architects of the M23 movement. Precisely the M23 is a mercenary army for American interests in the DR Congo.

New Rebel Leader Drops Challenge to President

Nick Long
A faction of the rebel group M23 in the Democratic Republic of Congo has chosen a new civilian leader who says he won’t challenge the legitimacy of President Joseph Kabila.

There was a festive atmosphere at Thursday’s M23 congress at Bunagana, a small town on the DRC-Ugandan border.

'We’re talking about peace, we’re talking about peace' was the chorus of this theme song for the day, which played as the 200 or so M23 members, wives, husbands and other guests waited for the announcement of the movement’s new president.

The M23 and the government have been talking about peace for the past three months and during that time the rebel movement has split into two warring factions.

This congress was called by one of those factions, led by Sultani Makenga. The other faction is led by Jean Marie Runiga, who is close to Bosco Ntaganda, a former DRC army general who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

The high point of Thursday’s meeting was the announcement that Runiga had been removed as M23 president and replaced by Bertrand Bisimwa, a former spokesman for the M23 and for previous rebel movements.

In a brief speech, Bisimwa outlined his version of the movement’s program, which, unlike Runiga’s, does not include trying to overthrow or replace the government.

Later, he told journalists that the split between the Makenga faction and Runiga was over this issue.

Bisimwa said the Makenga group recognizes the government, and he claimed the government returns the compliment.

"We are the real M23. I heard yesterday the government of Kinshasa was talking about this and they said they are going to negotiate with our M23. There is no confusion about that," Bisimwa said.

Some people think Kinsahsa and Sultani Makenga have already reached a peace deal. Makenga was asked by journalists on Thursday if it was true Kinshasa had paid him millions of dollars to sweeten the deal. His reply was confusing.

He says he cannot say whether or not he has taken the money, adding that it’s a rumor put out by Runiga to blacken his reputation. It’s a lie, he says finally, and journalists should ask the government, they will deny it.

Makenga was also asked if he will sign a peace deal with the government on March 15.

He says he does not know if that will happen, adding that negotiations have not yet ended.

Most observers think the Makenga faction has the upper hand in the M23.

Djentio Maundu, head of research for the North Kivu Civil Society Association says the Makenga faction controls most of the territory M23 occupied last year, while the Runiga-Ntaganda faction controls only a small area. He said the faction is leaving that area and moving towards the neighboring territory of Masisi.

A Runiga faction combatant inside that faction’s territory said this week that he wants to join the government forces.

He said he and his colleagues could join the government forces as there is no international arrest warrant against them - only against Bosco Ntaganda.

The fact he was prepared to say this to a reporter, regardless of the possible consequences, suggests that Runiga and Ntaganda are losing control of their faction.

DRC Rebels Replace Leader

VOA News
Congolese rebel group M23 has dismissed its political leader, Jean-Marie Runiga, accusing him of "high treason."

An M23 spokesman said Thursday that the group's military chief, General Sultani Makenga, has assumed leadership of the group.

Runiga confirmed his dismissal in a brief interview Thursday with VOA.

He said, "I have no comments to make even if I have been dismissed. My official spokesperson will detail the reasons why."

M23's military command released a statement late Wednesday, saying chairman Runiga was unable to carry out the group's political aims.

It said Runiga also allowed Bosco Ntaganda, a former Congolese general, to influence high-level decisions. Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting and using child soldiers.

M23's political spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa said Runiga may have fled to join Ntaganda.

At least eight people died in fighting late Sunday between what sources said were rebels loyal to Makenga and supporters of another leader.

The statement late Wednesday says the rebels want to continue peace efforts amid "positive signals" from the national and international community. They said they want to ensure a "peaceful and sustainable resolution" to unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The country has endured armed conflicts for more than two decades, including the latest eruption of violence last April. The M23 rebels captured several cities in November, demanding the government fully implement a 2009 peace deal designed to integrate rebels into the Congolese army.

Leaders from Africa's Great Lakes region are set to meet in Kampala March 15 to continue talks with M23. Members from 11 countries signed a peace deal Sunday aimed at ending decades of conflict in the mineral-rich eastern portion of the DRC.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions against M23 as a group, as well as individual measures against both Runiga and Makenga.

Big Brother Uganda Chapter: Gov’t plans to monitor social media

Minister Muruli Mukasa says government will try to check security threats coming through social media. Right is UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi. PHOTO/Francis Emorut

Gov’t plans to monitor social media

Publish Date: May 31, 2013

By Francis Emorut

KAMPALA - The minister of security, Muruli Mukasa has said Government is setting up a centre to monitor social media content deemed to be of a security threat to the country.

“We are opening a centre to monitor social media who are bent to cause a security threat to the nation,” he said

He pointed out that Government looks to apply for a court order to enable it check email accounts of those who want to threaten the security of the county.

“We shall apply for a court order in order to check those who are using social media to propagate threats to the security of the country.”

Mukasa made it very clear that Government will not close any media houses’ websites or other websites.

He was responding to a question raised during a media briefing on whether Government would shut down social media sites especially Twitter and Facebook.

“We shall not close them but will monitor their activities through our centre,” he said.

The centre will be managed by Government security operatives and IT experts.

The minister was at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on Thursday, briefing the media on the updates of Simcard registration deadline which is today, May 31, having been pushed from March 31.

According to him, 15 (91%) out of 16 million mobile telephone subscribers have so far registered.

The minister gave telecommunications service providers 90 days to validate the data.

He said there will be no more extension of Simcard registration and advised those who have not done that yet to take advantage of the validation period to register.

The executive director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Godfrey Mutabazi backed the minister on monitoring social media content, saying the commission can trace security threat messages through social media.

“We can have access to trace it [security threats] but we shall not ban the social media,” Mutabazi said.

The media briefing was attended by the top brass of telecommunication service providers.

Battle over Mosanto’s GMOs in Uganda : Civil society petition EALA over biosafety Bill

The bill is meant to provide mechanisms to regulate research, development and generate release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).


First Read:

Ugandans need a law that bans GMOs, not one that promotes them

GMO technology will enslave generations of Uganda farmers

GMO Agriculture and Chemical Pesticides are Killing the Bees

When Americans bowed down and corporations led them in a prayer: The day California's Proposition 37 was defeated: Shock as Prop. 37: Genetic food labels defeated.

Civil society petition EALA over biosafety Bill

Publish Date: May 31, 2013

By Moses Walubiri

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have petitioned the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to use its political and diplomatic leverage to cause an overhaul of Uganda’s Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012.

The CSOs want the Bill to reflect Uganda’s commitment to international conventions on GMOs like the Convention on Biological Diversity, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources and Farmers’ Rights.

The contentious Bill currently under scrutiny by the Science and Technology committee of the Ugandan parliament is meant to provide mechanisms to regulate research, development and generate release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 

In their petition to the regional parliament’s committee of Agriculture Tourism and Natural Resources on Thursday, the 62 CSOs under their umbrella body – Food Rights Alliance – contend that the biosafety bill in its current form will make Uganda’s food security subservient to the whims of external market forces.

Raising doubts about the need for GMOs in a country like Uganda with enough arable land and abundant water supply, the National Coordinator of Food Rights Alliance, Agnes Kirabo, said the bill does not adequately safeguard against the health and safety challenges associated with GMOs.

“We implore you to use your powers to help shape the draft law under scrutiny,” Kirabo said, adding, “GMOs will become a real security threat because our farmers will become dependent on Multinational seed companies like Monsanto as traditional healthy foods vanish.”

According to Dr. Giregon Olupot of Makerere University’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and Daniel Maingi – a former Monsanto employee, peasants will be obligated to buy expensive patented seeds every season, thus pushing millions below the bread line.

EALA MPs Dan Kidega and Christophe Bazivamo said the need to protect organic crop and animal varieties ought to be deemed a strategic issue.

“We intend to draft a template law at a regional level to regulate GMOs in the East African Community,” Kidega said. 

Although Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya have already drafted laws to regulate GMOs, any law drafted by EALA takes precedence according to the protocol on the establishment of the community.

The bulk of Uganda’s agricultural products find market in the European Union which has a strict legal framework regulating GMOs.

With the State Minister for Planning, Matia Kasaija, recently informing MPs on the National Economy committee that enacting the Biosafety Bill into law is “an obligation and not a choice,” Uganda has a catch-22 situation on its hands.


Statement on the Bio safety and Biotechnology Bill 2012

Food Rights Alliance (FRA)

20 February 2013

Submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology

We, the members of the Food Rights Alliance (FRA), an alliance over 60 international, national and community based organisations and individuals are writing to express our views and opinions on the proposed national law on Biosafety and Biotechnology (2012 Draft). FRA spearheaded by Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute-Uganda (SEATINI-Uganda)  and Participatory Ecological Land Use Management-Uganda appreciates the efforts by Government for developing and putting in place a National Biotechnology and Bio safety policy (2008), to guide and ensure the safe development and application of tools of modern biotechnology.

We thank the parliamentary committee on science and technology for giving us the opportunity to make our submission in regard to the Bio safety and Biotechnology Bill 2012

We understand that the application of the bill is on research and general release of a Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and one of the objectives of the bill is to facilitate the safe development and application of biotechnology. We also understand that certain parties are looking to pass this bill into law as soon as is possible. It is for this reason that parliament has called for submissions, and we feel compelled to respond.

Concerns on GMOs

First, we wish to share our concerns about GMOs in regard to agriculture, the environment and our economy. 

  • GMOs will bring high costs to farmers because the seeds are patented by the corporations that sell them.  Patented seeds mean that seed saving is forbidden and we must buy new seeds each season.  Many Ugandan farmers, especially small-scale farmers, will be unable to bear the additional cost of buying expensive patented seed each season. 

  • Some GMOs have had genes from different species put into them.  They are new and potentially unsafe.  There could be unknown health risks associated with inserting genes from different species into our food

  • There is a risk of contamination of our indigenous crops from fields planted with GMOs, through the likely event of cross-pollination. 

  • We are also aware that in other countries such as Canada and the US, farmers have been sued by the corporations for saving their GM seed, or for being accidentally contaminated with GM genes through cross-pollination.

  • If seed saving is forbidden, future generations will lose the knowledge of natural and traditional seed and its value.

  • We fear that contamination of our agriculture and seed with GMOs will mean the loss of export markets to countries that have already rejected GM foods.

  • GMOs will lead to the perpetual enslavement of small farmers by corporations, by controlling all the seed and forcing us to buy on their terms, season upon season.

  • GMOs do not address the real problems of food insecurity in Uganda.  They are only serving to distract policy makers from the good options that already exist, which are being underutilized.

  • The process of developing GMOs also provides scientists with an opportunity to produce sterile seeds. The idea of producing sterile seeds disrespects farmers’ rights to seed and causes total dependence of farmers and generations to come on corporations.

General Concerns on the Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill 2012

We are concerned that;

The bill fully accords the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNSCT) with the mandate to approve confined field testing, export, import or transit. Whereas the UNSCT is the competent authority on matters of Science and Technology, we feel the final approval for commercial release of GMOs, export, transit and import should lay with a government ministry preferably the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. Refer to Part II Section 7 (1 (a)

The bill does not provide for labelling of GMOs especially for general release on the market. Labelling is very important to especially observe consumer rights. The Bill should give powers to the minister in consultation with the competent authority to develop regulations regarding packaging and labelling of the GMOs before being put on the market.

There is no risk assessment report required for importation of GMOs. This is very critical to avoid an influx of unsafe GMOs from other countries. Refer to Part III Section 23

There is a very sketchy provision for public participation and consultations during the development and general release of GMOs. We propose that separate provisions on public consultations are developed as part of the miscellaneous provisions.

Uganda’s agricultural sector is mainly composed of small holder farmers however there is no clear mention of representation of the small holder farmers in the bill.

There are no specific provisions on conflict of interest whereas there are number of provisions in the bill that need this. Specific provisions are needed especially in regard to the roles of the Institutional Biosafety Committees, National Biosafety Committee and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology. Refer to Part II Section 9 and 14 (6)(a)

There are a number of key definitions search as ‘unintentional release’, ‘bioethical’ and ‘benefit sharing’ that are missed out in the interpretation. For enforcement purposes all key terms need to be clearly interpreted. Refer to Part I section 3


The biotechnology and bio safety bill 2012 draft seems to hold no respect for the rights of the farmers and if farmer’s fields are contaminated by GMOs it will be impossible for them to successfully claim for compensation. The bill does not have provisions for communities to claim for compensation where their environment or food is contaminated by GMOs. 

We highly commend the efforts by the Government of Uganda to advance biotechnology development especially in agriculture however; this should not be done at the expense of the farmers and general public in Uganda. We call on to the government to respect farmers’ rights, food security, seed diversity and traditional cultures.

Members of Food Rights Alliance

1.      Abantu for Development
2.      Action AID International Uganda (AAIU)
3.      Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment ACODE
4.      African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE)
5.      African Women Economic Empowerment Network (AWEPON)
6.      APSD
7.      Ankole Food Security Network
8.      CAD Uganda
9.      CARITAS Uganda
10.  Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT)
11.  Development Network of Indigenous Volunteers Association (DENIVA)
12.  Eastern Uganda Food Security Network
13.  Environmental Alert
14.  Historic Resources Conservation Initiatives
15.  Kabalore Uganda Food Security Network
16.  Northern Uganda Food security Network (NUFOSEN)
17.  Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute  (SEATINI-U)
18.  Uganda Consumers Protection Association (UCPA)
19.  Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE)
20.  VECO Uganda
21.  VEDCO, Uganda
22.  Youth Plus Uganda
23.  Centre for Development Initiatives (CDI)
24.  Pallisa Civil Society Network (PACONET)
25.  Mbarara district Civil Society Forum
26.  National Hunger Task Force
27.  Plan International Uganda
28.  Pro Biodiversity Conservationists in Uganda
29.  Uganda Women Organizations Network (UWONET)
30.  Masindi Seed and Grain Ltd
31.   Food talk Uganda
33.  Hunger fighters
34.  CODI
36.  SEDFA
37.  MPIFA
38.  Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM-U)
39.  Masaka District Farmers Association
40.  Uganda Environment Education Fund (UEEF)
41.  Mityana Mubende District Framers Association
42.  TAF Assured Uganda
43.  Hope Against Poverty
44.  IFDI
45.  Center for Participatory Research and Development  (CEPARD)
46.  Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD)
47.  National Association of Women in Uganda (NAWOU)
48.  Agency For Integrated Rural Development (AFIRD)
49.  GORTA Uganda
50.  East and Southern Africa Farmers Forum (ESAFF-U)
51.  Uganda Debt Network
52.  Concern Worldwide Uganda
53.  Uganda Land Alliance
54.  Arua  District NGO Forum
58.  NAPE
59.  Pastoralist and Poverty Frontier (PPF)
60.  Rural Development Media and Communication (RUDMEC)
62.  U-CAN
64.  World Vision Uganda

MPS query Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill

Publish Date: Nov 10, 2011

By Patrick Jaramogi
A Government plan to pass the Bio-safety and Bio-technology Bill without farmers input will hurt the incomes of farmers, Members of Parliament and Civil Society Organisations disclosed.

The bill that is set to be tabled in parliament next month seeks to formalize the use of Genetically Modified Organisms/seeds GMOs.

Uganda is one of those countries that are quickly adopting this technology with field trials for GMO banana, maize, cotton, potatoes and rice currently ongoing at Namulonge and Kawanda Research Institutes.

 Uganda has developed a National Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill 2008 and there is a draft Biosafety and Biotechnology Bill Draft 2008 yet to be presented to the parliament. This bill when turned into a law is meant to guide the introduction and use of GMOs in the country.

But MPs and CSOs meeting at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala observed that the bill which they also said had been shielded from the public will not address the escalating food prices.

With the world population currently at the 7 billion, many countries especially in Africa are faced with the serious threat of people dying from hunger.

Uganda alone is expected to hit the 50million mark by 2025. One of the solutions being advanced to deal with the threat of hunger is the advancement of Genetically Modified Organisms/seeds (GMOs) created through a new technology called Genetic Engineering.

“It is very unfortunate that even we (MPs) haven’t had the chance to peruse through the draft bill. This law will affect farmers who are the backbone of this economy, said, Matthias Kasamba MP for Kakutu- (Rakai) . "A lot of things are happening behind our backs with limited access by the public,” he added.

The Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute-Uganda (SEATINI-Uganda) country director Jane Nalunga said Uganda needs to learn how to deal with the market before the bill is passed into law.

 “Most NGOs, farmers, consumers and even the policy makers are not aware of the challenges arising from the use of GMOs like the fact that seeds produced through this technology are patented and their introduction is subjected to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that denies farmers the right to save, replant, share or propagate seeds without authority of the patentee,” she said.

     Eng. Robert Kafeero (Nakifuuma-Mukono) the Vice Chairperson Parliamentary Committee on Science and Technology said the bill will only be allowed to pass the floor of Parliament if it has meaning to the farmers.

“We shall cause meaningful change to the bill before it is enacted. We are concerned about the bio-safety issues,” he said.
He said creating seed security for small-holder farmers is very central in ensuring food security.

Erina Namugambe (Mubende) said under the NAADs programme, farmers are given terminator seeds which are not sustainable. ‘Farmers are not reaping much from the GMO seeds. They are not earning from their produce. This bill should seek to help the farmers more,” she said.

 The meeting is a collaboration between with Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM-Uganda), Action Aid International Uganda (AAIU), Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO.

  Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which is being done through Genetic Engineering (GE). The technology involves the production of genetically modified crops whose seeds may not be replanted especially those with the terminator gene.

The CSOs observed that one of the effects of GE technology will be elimination of farmers’ indigenous seeds. The result will be making smallholder farmers dependant on multinational and profit driven companies for the supply of seeds.

Hence, their food production and by extension livelihoods will be controlled by these corporate companies.

NGOs Want GMO Bill Overhauled,take Battle to EA Assembly

Civil society organizations (CSOs) are seeking the intervention of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) to push the Ugandan Government to over haul the bill on Bio-safety and Biotechnology.

The CSOs are appealing for a strong legislation that will protect and respect food security, farmer’s livelihoods, the environment and human health saying that government should promote biotechnology that is favorable to the needs of the farmers and right to food.

A visiting scholar at the Makerere University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Giregon Olupot said that the bill should wait since no much publicity and consultation has been made in the twenty years of its existence. He said there are many issues that need to be put right before the bill is discussed like how the farmers are to be protected and compensated incase of risks.

Olupot said that the bill needs to be dismantled and a fresh one drafted because even when EAC tries to harmonize all the biotechnology bills in the Partner States, Uganda in particular still lags behind. Countries like Tanzania already have National Bio-safety guidelines which are clear with the originality of their Bio safety Regulations.

Professor Olupot notes that all the environmental guidelines that the country could have used to beef up the bill like the National Environment Management Authority and others were left out and the bill stands in isolation.

Agnes Kirabo, a national coordinator for Food Rights Alliance said the CSOs are greatly concerned about the manner the Ugandan Bio-safety and Biotechnology Bill 2012 was drafted saying. She says it is unfair and a lie to Ugandans because biotechnology is broad but the bill talks about one contentious element of bio technology which is genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Kirabo said that government should at least bring a GMO bill to be debated but if they choose a biotechnology bill then it should bring out the broad aspects of biotechnology and take into consideration the contests in its regard. She adds that the bill is weak on bio-safety since the powers and penalties spelt out therein are just pocket change given to the people who are going to promote and distribute genetically modified organisms in the country.

Kirabo further explained that the bill is very bad in its shape hence requiring debate and definition of what Ugandans want in order to draft a law that protects the interests of people. She urged scientists interfering with the bill to step aside for a while since the kind of research they are carrying out is not nationally driven but research of international agenda.

The Bio safety bill was read for the first time in February on the floor of parliament and handed over to the parliamentary committee of science and technology from where consultations are ongoing.