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No to GMOs


monsanto picDuring the past couple of weeks I have attended two events organised by FoodMatters Zimbabwe — a newly-formed and expanding group of Zimbabweans concerned about local food and wanting to build a citizens’ movement of farmers and consumers that supports sustainable food systems where consumers have healthy and diverse food, produced in a way that improves rather than damages the soil and the environment in general.First event was a screening at Queen of Hearts of Food Inc, a 2008 documentary by Robert Kenner giving a truly scary look at the USA’s corporate controlled food production. The industrialisation of the food chain has led to a huge increase in processed food products, the majority of which (70 percent) contain a genetically modified organism (GMO).

The film opens inside an American supermarket with an apparent huge array of choice and diversity — except a closer look at ingredients reveals a large percentage of the products are based on corn or soy with high fat and sugar additives.
Another statistic reveals that the US food and seed market is dominated by half a dozen corporates and the film exposes the comfortable relationships between business and government where corporates are protected by law often at the expense of the consumer and where, for example, it has become a crime to criticise the food industry and how food is produced.
Factory chickens which never see the light of day, huge feed lots where cattle wallow in their own manure and never consume fresh grass, giant production line slaughterhouses (amazingly there are only 13 in the vastness of the US!) where animals are killed so fast that contamination from faeces is inev-itable — is the stuff of science fiction and far removed from the fresh air and open skies of natural farming depicted on the packaging!
All this seems a far cry from Zimbabwe where we believe we still know the source of our food and where authorities still hold a cautious approach to GMOs with no GM crops being grown commercially. There is a concern however, that this is about to change and the second event organised by FoodMatters was a debate at the Book Café: GMOs: Solution or Threat —- offering an opportunity to learn more about GMOs and the Zimbabwean reality.
The debate was emotive with most of the audience being anti GMOs — many instinctually, some backed by science. The proponents of GMOs claim they are the only way to feed a growing world population  But in the year GMO seeds were first planted, 800 million people worldwide were hungry. Today, with millions of hectares of GMOs in production, 1 billion are hungry.
According to the African Biodiversity Network “In the last 30 years, proponents of genetically engineered crops, led by industry giant Monsanto have promised us four things; the absolute safety of these crops to both humans and animals, that they will not harm our environment and most importantly that they are more productive, bearing more yields than conventional crops and finally, needing    less chemicals and in many cases none.
Three decades later, every single claim that the GM industry has ever made about these crops has not only been refuted by scientific research and as it stands, 15 countries in the World, mostly in Europe, have completely banned GM foods in their countries.
Food Giant Monsanto — infamous as the developer of killer herbicide Agent Orange — is seen as the public face of corporate control over food and seeds, and callousness about the planet. Africa Day marked a worldwide march against Monsanto in 44 countries including neighbouring South Africa.
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