The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), a non-profit organization based in South Africa that provides information, research, and policy analysis regarding social justice, genetic engineering and ecological sustainability, recently published a critique of AGRA’s “African Agricultural Status Report 2013,” entitled, “Giving With One Hand and Taking With Two.” In their critique, they summarize and analyze AGRA’s report in an attempt to answer important questions regarding AGRA’s plan to increase circulation of private capital in order to increase agricultural production on the continent.
ACB investigates the proposed use of public funds, the distribution of benefits resulting from increased circulation of private capital, and AGRA’s basic assumption that increased agricultural production benefits all. They note that AGRA proposes the channeling of public resources toward projects and policies that will lead to profitability, indicating a benefit for commercial farmers who use high-input farming methods at the expense of farmers who are not in the position to produce as businesses. In addressing the distribution of benefits, ACB notes that with the injection of private capital, which is the basis of AGRA’s plan, the farmer will always have to give up a portion of their revenue or product to the owner of said capital. ACB emphasizes the importance of finding ways to increase productivity where the value created can stay with the producers and not go to investors. Further indicating an unfavorable distribution of benefits, ACB notes that some of AGRA’s interventions, most notably their push for seed harmonization, will have direct negative impacts on small-scale farmers because of new regulatory and legal obstacles that would inhibit these farmers’ current practices.
According to ACB, AGRA’s assumption that everyone benefits from increased production is erroneous. AGRA’s strategy is not only an inappropriate intervention for African agriculture but their focus on industrial agriculture ignores the importance of diversity in ecological agriculture, and the facts that farmers’ practices are time tested and have adapted to fit into local socio-ecological contexts for thousands of years. ACB suggests working with farmers to strengthen current practices instead of starting from scratch with AGRA’s industrial agricultural plan.
AGRA Watch’s newest intern, Tyler White, provided this analysis. To find out more about ACB’s report, please visit http://www.acbio.org.za
While voters in California and Washington rejected ballot proposals requiring foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such, two dozen more states are expected to introduce labeling bills. Opponents of GM labeling laws have consequently responded by coming up with a plan to thwart consumers’ right to know what is in their food.
Last month, the Union for Concerned Scientists published a blog regarding the arguments made by GE proponents for the necessity of genetically engineered crops. Particularly in the context of food production, GE advocates frequently assert that genetic modification will be a viable option to increase the world’s food supply while non-GE solutions will prove to be inadequate. However, according to senior scientist in the Food and Environmental Program at the Union of Concerned Scientist, Doug Gurian-Sherman, there is often a lack of substantive evidence supporting these claims. “Analysis of the coming constraints on food production (like climate change) and the potential of different approaches to improve food production and distribution are needed before any such declarations can be made with confidence,” says Gurian-Sherman. According to Sherman, the effectiveness of genetic engineering is best evaluated if rigorous regulations and scientific testing of GE technologies are conducted by objective third parties.
In his op-ed piece for the New York Times, Peter Buffett discusses how (even the most well-intended) philanthropists at times “are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others have created with their left.” According to Buffett, studies show that inequality continues to rise despite the steady growth of the non-profit sector. In other words, although the rich feel good and sleep better at night after “giving to the poor,” the disadvantaged are ” further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature…”