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Value Chains

GMO wars should take back seat to other farm issues, says DuPoint Pioneer

By Anonymous (not verified), December 19, 2012
Koblah Agbeta holds up rice seeds from his farm in Abutia Kpota, Ghana. Quality seeds are critical for a good harvest. Photo: <a href="">Gates Foundation (Flickr)</a>
Koblah Agbeta holds up rice seeds from his farm in Abutia Kpota, Ghana. Quality seeds are critical for a good harvest. Photo: Gates Foundation (Flickr)

A corporate seed manufacturer is suggesting that slowing the spread of genetically modified crops would be acceptable, if that's what it takes to keep industrializing Africa's farms.

Simply swapping in cross-bred (but non-GMO) hybrid seeds can do great things for small African farmers, DuPont Pioneer Vice President Daniel Jacobi says in an InterPress Service article:

[Jacobi said that] of the 24 million hectares of maize planted annually in sub-Saharan Africa, about a third was hybrid seed.

Furthermore, farmers get a fuller yield from hybrid seeds by using fertiliser and agronomic practices, reducing post-harvest losses and getting the crop to market, he maintained.

"We can spend a long time and gain a lot of productivity in sub-Saharan Africa by doing all those things without ever getting to the introduction of GMOs," Jacobi said following a tour of the DuPont Pioneer facility in the Midwestern U.S. state of Iowa. … "I think we tend to get wrapped up in the debate about GMOs and how multinational companies are forcing GMOs down the throats of local farmers. I think we ought to be focused on helping farmers do the best job they can do today by using hybrid seed and let us not let those priorities get lost in the big philosophical debate about GMOs."

As Jacobi implies, Africa actually faces two separate, valid questions. First: Can genetically modified crops be good, on balance, for poor farmers? Second: Can corporate seed suppliers be good, on balance, for poor farmers?

As InterPress Service's carefully counterweighted coverage shows, Africans of different stripes hold widely divergent views on GMOs; some call them the best hope for productivity in a warming climate, while others want Africa to be a "GMO-free continent."

But Jacobi, DuPont Pioneer's vice president for Asia, Africa and China, is suggesting that his company's main interest is to supply more seed of any sort to Africa's farms—genetically tweaked or not.

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