Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

GMOs: Are agricultural firms killing us?

GMOs: Are agricultural firms killing us?

Tapuwa Mashangwa
OUR concern about Genetically Modified Organisms is genuine. We cannot ignore the negative health implications they could cause. Whether they are good or bad, I do not know, but I am certain that our concerns will never cease. While the producers of GMOs will always defend their products, perhaps because of their profit motive, the average ordinary consumer would be smiling when he is handed a Genetically Modified (GM) bag of rice or maize oblivious of the implications and fragile “safety” of the products.

Health experts fear GMO foods can cause allergies, make humans resistant to antibiotics or even lead to cancer.

Independent scientists see pitfalls to this high-profit, high-tech products, hence they are not allowed in Zimbabwe.

Top concerns about GMOs include the rise of “super-weeds” — crops built to withstand herbicides, which could breed with each other and transfer their genes to weeds.

These super-weeds would also beat the herbicides.

The GMO process often mixes or adds proteins that don’t exist in the original plant hence fears this will create new allergic reactions.

There is also worry that foods made to resist disease and viruses will linger in one’s system after consumption of the product and that could make antibiotics less effective.

But no studies confirm this claim, “Frankenfood” fears. The long-term effects of adding new genes to common crops are still unclear.

While the industry and health leaders cite hundreds of studies to support its safety, not to mention 20 years of animal data, experts like Krimsky say studies that show bad effects on animals – like harm to the kidneys, or other organs, should carry more weight.

“The prominent scientists who say the controversy surrounding GMOs has been resolved are dismissing at least 23 studies showing ill effects,” he says.

“It has to be a balancing act that weighs the benefits of GMOs against the risks, and that’s driven by science, not political pressure or profits.”

The United States of America Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only litmus test for safety is based on a policy that says GM foods are close enough to natural foods that they don’t need regulation.

“The question is, how can they make that determination?” Krimsky says.

Whether they think of them as Frankenfoods or ways to feed the world, both sides agree consumers have a right to know what’s on their plates.

Countries that require labels for GM foods include China, Australia, and the European Union.

But the Unites States doesn’t make food companies mark products with GM ingredients. So it’s no surprise many Americans don’t realise they’re eating them.

The FDA says companies can label foods on their own to say they are or aren’t GM, provided they keep it truthful.

But that puts an added burden on farmers to plant, harvest, and ship GM crops separately from non-GM crops.

That creates extra cost, which is passed along to the consumer.

Food companies like Nature’s Path and Gerber baby food choose to use non-GM ingredients.

The fast food chain Chipotle removed GM foods from its menu.

Whole Foods promises to label all GM products at its US and Canadian stores by 2018.

To justify or defend themselves most GMO producing companies argue that GMOs have better overall quality and taste.

Through the modification of foods, the flavours can be enhanced.

Plants and animals that have been genetically modified can become more resistant to the unexpected problems of disease, they say.

GMO foods can have vitamins and minerals added to them through genetic modifications to provide greater nutritive benefits to those who eat them. This is especially common in developing countries that don’t always have the access to needed resources.

Oklahoma State University reports that the increase of GMO crops and animals often requires less chemicals, time and tools, and may help to reduce environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion.

Some GMO foods have been modified to make them more resistant to insect pests.

The University of California in San Diego reports that a toxic bacterium can be added to crops to make them insect repellent, yet safe for human use.

This can reduce the amount of pesticide chemicals used on the plants, thus potentially reducing exposure to pesticides.

Some of the most exciting advances in genetically altered plants are for non-food sources.

Edible vaccinations are one such area. The genetic engineering of plants has the potential to provide edible plant vaccines that could be used to immunise individuals against a wide variety of infectious diseases ranging from cholera to potentially Aids.

One such example: the transgenic potato plants that have been produced and tested successfully by utilising a genetically engineered food to deliver a pharmaceutical immunisation against diarrhoea.

The bottom line; If you live (and eat) in the US, unless it’s otherwise stated or it’s certified organic it’s a safe bet that your food is GM.

Makers who don’t use GM ingredients clearly say so on labels.

US agencies and funders such as the Gates Foundation and agribusiness giant Monsanto are trying to force unwilling African nations to accept expensive and insufficiently tested Genetically Modified (GM) foods and crops.

Such a stance makes one wonder what the truth behind GMOs really is.

In Zimbabwe, the importation of GMOs has a negative effect on our already undeveloped agricultural sector.

The government should protect local farmers from cheap agricultural imports, which undermine their viability and compromise the land reform, farmers unions have said.

The unions argue that allowing the importation of genetically modified foods at cheaper prices undermines efforts to revolutionise the agrarian sector.

Tapuwa Justice Mashangwa, a young entrepreneur based in Bulawayo.

He is the Founder and CEO of Emerald Agribusiness Consultancy.

He can be contacted on 0739096418 or email: [email protected]


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