Small-scale farmers march over GM maize
West Cape News, 2 November 2010
Emerging farmers who are farming land between Khayelitsha and Eerste Rivier picketed outside Parliament on Thursday in protest against the widespread use of genetically modified maize in South Africa. Other issues highlighted by the vocal group of about 50 farmers belonging to the iThemba Farmers Association were the slow pace of land reform and the eviction of small-scale farmers from government land.
Chanting, singing and carrying placards, the protestors voiced their perceptions that the Department of Agriculture discriminated against them in favour of commercial farmers when it came to questions of access to government owned land, and that the use of genetically modified (GM) maize threatened food security.
iThemba Farmers Association Chairperson Craig Jonkers said the introduction of GM maize in conjunction with US based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, Monsanto.
Jonkers said the government’s main purpose in introducing GM maize was to allow Monsanto to patent maize seed and seize control of the use and distribution of seed.
Monsanto's South African website states that the company has "increased its maize market share to about 50 percent" in the seed sector.
"Monsanto is motivated by greed for profits,” said Jonker.
"It claims that this GM maize will allow for the production of more food, which therefore would lessen hunger. Actually, it would cause more hunger."
He said hunger was not as a result of the shortage of food, but caused by "inequality and the concentration of wealth".
He said the introduction of GM maize created further inequality as it forced poor farmers to pay rich corporations like Monsanto for the right to plant their GM maize seed.
He said there were unanswered questions over whether GM foods were harmful to human health.
"Food corporations like Monsanto have released these GM foods without proper safety and health tests. Their profits are their overriding concern."
He said land was being given to multinational companies like Monsanto and Syngenta to conduct experiments while small-scale farmers did not have access to land.
Chairperson of the Surplus People's Project, Ricardo Jacobs, said nobody knows the consequences to the environment of releasing masses of organisms that had been genetically modified.
"We feel that market led policies has been harmful to the poor and calls for participation in the decision making of macroeconomic strategies and policies felt on deaf ears. It seem no one wants to listen," Jacobs.
Monsanto managing director Kobus Lindique said he was not aware that the small-scale farmers were protesting outside Parliament but said their products were safe and scientifically tested.