US Working Group on the Food Crisis Criticizes Clinton/Vilsack Tour of Kenyan Pro-Biotech Institute

USAID-Monsanto-KARI Spent $6 Million on Failed GM Sweet Potato Project

gm potato x DW-TVBy Food First

On the eve of an upcoming visit to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Representatives Donald Payne and Nita Lowey, the U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis challenged the Obama Administration’s plans to fund a new “Green Revolution” in Africa in tandem with the Gates Foundation.

The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis, comprised of religious, anti-hunger, family farm and farmworker, food justice, environmental, labor, consumer and international development groups, urges a new approach towards addressing food security based on the findings of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report. The IAASTD is a landmark study conducted by over 400 scientists and development experts sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank that emphasized the importance of investing in agroecological methods and warned that chemical-intensive production continues to have adverse health and environmental effects, while “modern biotechnology” (genetically engineered seed) has so far contributed few verifiable positive impacts on equitable and sustainable development.

In the 1990s, USAID, together with Monsanto, helped spearhead a 14-year, $6 million project through the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to develop a genetically modified, virus-resistant sweet potato. The project has proven to be a failure. Local varieties outperformed GM varieties in field trials. Researchers in Uganda developed a virus-resistant hybrid through conventional breeding techniques at a tiny fraction of the cost. KARI continues to collaborate with the Monsanto Corporation and USAID researching biotechnological projects, advocating a model of agricultural development that relies upon a top-down approach and unproven, expensive investments.

Ben Burkett, president of the National Family Farm Coalition, a member of the international farmers movement La Via Campesina, cautioned, “As an African American farmer who has visited farmers in Africa many times, I am deeply concerned that much of the Obama Administration’s pledge to spend $1 billion on agriculture research will be wasted on biotech research that benefits Monsanto more than it does small-scale farmers. While I applaud the renewed focus on helping Africa feed itself, our taxpayer money is doomed to be wasted if it continues to fund business as usual. Secretary Clinton and Secretary Vilsack need to learn from previous disastrous biotechnology experiments such as the Kenyan GM sweet potato project. Many Kenyan farmers resent the U.S., Monsanto and the Gates Foundation for continuing to shove unwanted biotechnology down their throats.”

Read the full post at Food First


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