Development Discourse with Amos Safo: Defying the food colonialism agenda

The buffer stock system

“The most dangerous aspect is that when GMO and hybrid seeds are planted and they start producing flowers, the flowers are able to cross-pollinate organic seeds (African seeds) and turn them into GMO seeds. In the process, the GMO cross-pollinated seeds develop GMO or terminator genes to stop African farmers from replanting their seeds.”

In 2019, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa-Akufo-Addo started a campaign for Africa’s transformation “Beyond Aid”, describing it as a must. “Africa is eager, Africa is willing,” he said at the opening of the first leg of the African Caucus Meeting of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Governors in Accra, August 2019.

The event was held under the theme ‘Africa Beyond Aid: Enhancing Institutional Capacity and Innovative Finance for Sustainable Growth’. The African Caucus was established in 1963 as the ‘African Group’, with the objective of strengthening the voice of African Governors in the Bretton Woods Institutions – the IMF and World Bank Group – on development issues of interest to Africa.

President Akufo-Addo said working together with the people of Africa and with the educated, skilled and self-confident, Africa can attain an ‘Africa Beyond Aid’ agenda. “Since assuming the reins of office I have been advocating for a “Ghana Beyond Aid, because nobody needs to spell it out to us that the economic transformation we desire will not come through aid,” he stressed.

Food colonisation

He continued that aid will not bring Africa to the status of a developed nation or continent; adding that the fundamental condition for development is a self-reliant Africa, exploiting its immense resources to provide a dignified, decent standard of living for its people. According to President Akufo-Addo, to get to the destination of Africa Beyond Aid, the continent needs to effectively harness its own resources and deploy them creatively and efficiently for rapid economic and social transformation.

Before we can take command over our destiny and become truly politically and economically independent, we must understand that without growing what we eat we will remain under bondage till the end of the world. Without food, we will never have the strength and energy to transform African economies. Africa must shift from imports to exports through production and value-addition.

One key advantage Africa needs to harness is its land and water resources to produce its own food, rather than overly-relying on donations and technology. In the same manner that debt has been used to shackle Africa, western countries are now trying to use food to recolonise Africa.   While Africa can opt out of borrowing, the continent risks total collapse and extinction if it allows itself to be subjected to food colonialism.

Agenda of the west

The west’s agenda in Africa is to destroy Africa’s fertile fields, and with that undermine its capacity and ability to produce its own food and be self-sufficient in food supply. This agenda is shrouded in the plan is to supply Africa with genetically modified foods (GMOs) and hybrid seeds. Hybrid and GMO seeds have been created in the laboratories to ensure that they do not reproduce seeds in the succeeding years after the first crops. The reason is that developers of GMO seeds use terminator genes or a generic use-restriction technology that makes a plant incapable of reproducing seed once it has been planted for the first time.

The most dangerous aspect is that when GMO and hybrid seeds are planted and they start producing flowers, the flowers are able to cross pollinate organics seeds (African seeds) and turn them into GMO seeds. In the process, the GMO cross-pollinated seeds develop GMO seeds or terminator genes to stop African farmers from replanting their seeds. This strategy is aimed at making African farmers depend on the GMO seeds each year to be able to grow their food. The long-term strategy is to make Africa – endowed with some of the world’s best water and land resources – perpetually depend on the west for food. At least the COVID-19 pandemic, its attendant havoc on food production and the ban on foods exports to Africa by western countries should be a timely warning to African leaders that – especially in times of crisis – countries protect their own populations first.

GMO conditionality

The creeping danger is that many African farmers, such as those in Southern Africa, have been persuaded to abandon their traditional seeds and farming technologies to use GMO and hybrid seeds which do not reproduce seeds for replanting. Embracing GMO technology comes at a heavy cost of buying fertilisers and other chemicals to sustain them. GMO technology in the long-term wreaks irreparable damage on Africa’s soils and their ability to produce food without fertiliser and chemicals.

Thus, the GMO industry is another big business opportunity for western companies to generate foreign revenue from Africa, which is already shackled with unsustainable debts and interest rates. This profit motive explains why GMO adoption in Africa has become a condition for foreign aid and donation. Countries like Zambia and Malawi in the past were threatened with a cut in aid unless they adopted GMO technology.

Not only has the use of fertilisers and chemicals become expensive to the average African farmer, they destroy the fertility and ecology of African soils over time. In short, farming – which is the backbone of poor families and has the aggregate positive effect on the GDP of poor countries like Zimbabwe – has become an expensive venture. This is destroying many livelihoods in some African countries, and has become the major cause of food insecurity across the continent.

African intellectuals

The danger is that many of Africa’s intellectuals were sponsored by the GMO companies and have been deployed to entrench the use of GMO technology in Africa. These Masters’ and PhD holders have been nurtured and brainwashed/bribed into believing that Africa has no comparative advantage in producing its own food and seeds, and cannot survive without the west and its GMO technology.  This notion is incontrovertibly false. The fact remains that since the dawn of man, Africa has used its own traditional agricultural technology and other cultural systems to feed itself.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), sponsored by the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, is an example of western organisations trying to enforce the use of GMOs across Africa by using our own intellectuals. Sadly, some of Africa’s intellectuals brewed in western universities see no hope in Africa and have become willing tools for western powers to use in brainwashing Africans and promote food colonialism in Africa.

AGRA was popularised in Africa by our own Kofi Annan (the former UN Secretary-General) to engender an African acceptance. But the agenda has always been to promote and sustain food colonialism in Africa by encouraging Africans to stop producing indigenous organic foods and instead use GMO technology and hybrid seeds. In both cases, the result is getting Africa to depend on foreign food and seeds eternally.

Though Africa has an agenda for economic transformation titled ‘Agenda 2063’, I challenge our leaders to wean the continent from foreign aid and dare to pursue the “Africa Beyond Aid” agenda President Akufo-Addo is pushing. Yes, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a bold step to integrate African economies into one trading block; however, no amount of free trading will succeed if Africa continues to be a net importer of basic foods. In other words, economic emancipation of Africa must and should start with food self-sufficiency. There cannot be any economic and political emancipation if Africa continues to overly rely on the west for agricultural technology, whose aim is to destroy our indigenous cultural systems and make Africans further develop their already economically destructive taste for foreign goods.

Natural endowments

Africa cannot continue to go cup in hand begging for food and money when God has endowed the continent with some of the world’s best arable lands and with minerals and various other natural resources.  Geological and economic studies show that Africa is the world’s richest continent in terms of its natural and mineral resources.

According to the United Nations, Africa is home to about 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, 12 percent of the world’s oil and 8 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves. The continent also holds 40 percent of the world’s gold and up to 90 percent of its chromium and platinum – both valuable metals.

Besides, Africa has a large quantity of other natural resources: including diamonds, sugar, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum and also tropical timber, tropical fruit and cocoa beans. Africa supplies up to 31 percent of the world’s demand for bauxite, cobalt, gold, manganese, phosphates and uranium. Recently discovered oil reserves have increased the importance of the commodity to African economies. However, why the continent continues to be the world’s leading “beggar’ continent instead of its leading supplier of food is the biggest question yet to be answered.

In my view, the dilemma of Africa is rooted in, firstly, the western ideology to keep Africa below the water and present it in western media as dependent on the west forever; and secondly, a failure of leadership. After the attempts by Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Kabral, Sekou Toure, Julius Nyerere etc. to decolonise and de-westernise Africa in the 1960s, subsequent African leaders have pandered too much to western dictates – and even became stooges of western systems. Characteristically, it was our African brothers who were used by western powers to destroy these pioneering Pan-Africanists. The cancer of betrayal, greed and selfishness remain the bane of Africa’s development and transformation.

I need to emphasise that true emancipation cannot be attained if our food is controlled by western powers. For this reason, it is important for Africa to maintain its traditional seed and food production techniques. It is equally important for Africans to consume food from seeds that can be reproduced, or else we are doomed as a people and culture. Any power with the genuine desire to help Africa attain food sovereignty must do so within our traditional system. There is no bigger economic emancipation agenda than food self-sufficiency for Africa.

GMO-adoption in Ghana

Eight years ago the National Biosafety Act 2011 was passed by Parliament to usher the country into commercialising GMO crops.  Further, the Biosafety Regulations 2019 were promulgated to operationalise the parent law and allow the introduction of GMO foods into the country.

These regulations paved the way for the commercial use of insect-resistant ‘Bt cowpea’, which will allow farmers to dramatically reduce their use of pesticides and boost their yields. Researchers are also ready to experiment with NEWEST rice, which has been engineered to require less nitrogen fertiliser, tolerate drought conditions and grow in salty soils – and still give good yield.

I only hope that our government, legislators and scientists are acting in the best interests of the country, and have an objective in mind that does not allow food colonialism to be promoted by the adoption of GMO technology. Posterity will never forgive our current leaders if they allow Ghana and Africa to be recolonised through food.

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