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Opinion: GM Cotton a False Promise for Africa

15 / 06 / 2015, IPS News Environment

Genetically modified (GM) cotton has been produced globally for almost two decades, yet to date only three African countries have grown GM cotton on a commercial basis – South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan.African governments have been sceptical of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for decades and have played a key role historically in ensuring that international law – the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety – takes a precautionary stance towards genetic engineering in food and agriculture.They have also imposed various restrictions and bans on the cultivation and importation of GMOs, including on genetically modified (GM) food aid.But now resistance to GM cultivation is crumbling as a number of other African countries such as Malawi, Ghana, Swaziland and Cameroon appear to be on the verge of allowing their first cultivation of GM cotton, with Nigeria and Ethiopia planning to follow suit in the next two to three years.“Scrutiny of actual experiences [with GM cotton] reveals a tragic tale of crippling debt, appalling market prices and a technology prone to failure in the absence of very specific and onerous management techniques, which are not suited to smallholder production”Some African governments and local cotton producers have high hopes that GM technology will boost African competitiveness in the dog-eat-dog world that characterises the global cotton market.

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