Seeds of a new misery

by Roger Gbegnonvi | 1 Oct 2003

Roger Gbegnonvi*

As soon as he was out of prison for his ‘crimes' of uprooting GM crops, the Frenchman José Bové went to Larzac [1]. There he advocated civil disobedience to French farmers, in the face of continuing imposition of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the fields of agricultural globalisation. For José Bové and friends to sound the alarm in this way throughout the world, it means that the situation is serious. Do Africans who have been promised happiness – at last – through the use of GMOs know their fate?
GMOs are to agriculture what egg-laying hens are to animal reproduction: these eggs can only be eaten, they cannot reproduce. The same goes for genetically modified (GM) maize. On the surface it looks a thousand times better than natural maize from farmers in Bimbéréké or Savi, which is small and puny. But the seeds from GM maize cannot be used as seeds for the next crop, and the farmer needs constantly to go back to industry and its traders to buy more GM seeds for the next year's crop. By contrast, today the farmer simply needs to collect the amount of seeds required from his yield for the next season's sowing, which makes the farmer dependent only on himself.

A ‘poulet bicyclette' doing its rounds. The chickens are sometimes attached in a basket on the back.

The globalisation of agriculture through the imposition of GMOs will transform all farmers – including African farmers – into agricultural workers closely dependent on the large western companies which produce and sell GMOs. Farmers won't be the only ones dependent on the industry: all those whom they casually feed with their “chicken bicycles” [2] and their natural seeds will also be affected. Once the imposition of GMOs has succeeded, the companies will be able to sell anything they like and will have the power to determine what we eat.

All the food will come from the same global ‘Worldfood bank, so that from Bembèrèkè to Boston, via Cancun and Calcutta, we will all eat the same GM produce; to the delight – that is to say the increased profits – of large industry and trading organisations around the world. Complete harmonisation of the food supply will be achieved, and the harmonisation of our thinking will soon follow. When you hear that through the use of GMOs, poverty will be fought off in Africa, you should not only be cautious, you should rebel, as their use will only lead us to misery and dependence.
When the new wealth of the global traders and industrialists is at its highest point, we will realise that Africa, far from emerging from anything, has sunk further into epidemics, pandemics, famines, revolts and ridiculous wars. The humanitarian ballet will then be in full swing. Religious protestations in Rome will continue to support the Catholic-Italian campaign which has suddenly sprung up to appease tensions in Africa which, of course, has nothing valid to say about the merits of GMOs. This is a cynical and humanitarian bluff from the universal do-gooders. We should not simply be cautious, we should rebel. Today we need to fight against GMOs with our minds and spirits, so that tomorrow our children do not physically take up arms in a war against themselves and against us, their parents. In this way, we can stand up to the indecent crusade from all corners from those who think that the GMOs are good enough for Africans.
Roger Gbegnonvi is Law Professor at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin. Reprinted from Nouvelle Tribune N° 403, 2 September, 2003



an anti-globalisation festival held in August 2003 in France


“Poulets bicyclettes” (chicken bicycles) are frequently seen in West Africa. These bicycles do the rounds of the villages before selling the chickens in town, and many families are dependent on this as a source of income.

Author: Roger Gbegnonvi