The pieces below make clear how mercilessly Tanzania is being lobbied in an effort to secure a toe-hold for GM crops, with Prakash, Shantharam, USAID and the US State Department all involved.

The US Department of State press release (item 3) explains how the head of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSP II) is being brought to the country. ABSP is a USAID funded project managed originally by the Michigan State University and more recently by Cornell (ABSP II). Its partners have included Asgrow, Monsanto, and Pioneer Hi-Bred. Promoting GM is an official part of USAID's remit - one of its roles being to "integrate GM into local food systems."

Among the advisors to USAID is CS Prakash who serves as the principal investigator of a USAID funded project "to promote biotechnology awareness in Africa". As the US embassy mentions, Prakash was in Tanzania in August 2002, when he "met with Tanzanian scientists, describing the potential of bio-engineered foods for the benefit of the country." (item 3) Prakash was reported in the press at the time as having told his Tanzanian audience that GM "doubles production"! (The Express, Tanzania, Aug 21, 2002).

The second item below mentions that this February a Member of the WHO/FAO Consultative Committee on Biotechnology-Food Safety, was in Arusha, Tanzania in February for a seminar on GMO technology for East African plant inspectors. The expert in question was Dr Sivramiah Shanthu Shantharam, a close ally of Prakash's and a former employee of Syngenta's.

Like Prakash, Shanthu Shantharam appears none too concerned with acccuracy. He told India's science and environment magazine, Down to Earth, that in the Percy Schmeiser case, "Court records clearly establish that Schmeiser had planted gm canola which he had purchased illegally." This is totally untrue - the records, in fact, establish the exact opposite!

In Tanzania Shantharam apparently told his audience that GM had the "potential of alleviating hunger in Third World countries".

What adds to the irony of the lobby attack on Tanzania, is that while it has apparently led to GM cotton being lapped up as a 'liberator' of Tanzania's cotton farmers, as Devlin Kujek of GRAIN explains (item 1 below), it is almost impossible to imagine given the economic relaities of cotton farming in Tanzania, how farmers could derive any benefit at all from the GM seed.

Tanzania's cotton farmers are suffering from miserably low global cotton prices at the same time that they are successfully increasing production without GM. America's contribution to low cotton prices has, of course, got it into trouble even with the WTO.

1.COMMENT: Why would Tanzania want to expand cotton production?
2.Tanzania to Conduct Field-Trials of GM Cotton
3.US expert on biotechnology is visiting Tanzania

1.COMMENT: Why would Tanzania want to expand cotton production?

In the articles that have circulated [recently], it is claimed that the Bt cotton that is supposed to begin to be field tested in Southern Tanzania will re-open that part of the country to cotton
cultivation. This is hailed as a good thing. For example:

"The research will be conducted in the Mbeya, Rukwa and Iringa regions of Tanzania's southern highlands, where cotton production was suspended in 1968 in an effort to stop the bollworm spreading to the rest of the country. Since then, farmers in the region have largely grown sunflowers to sell to processors who extract oil from the plants. But the growers have complained that the industry offers little financial security due to the small local market for their crops. According to Paul Ntwina, the member of parliament for Songwe constituency, that the introduction of GM cotton would be good news for farmers in southern Tanzania. 'I am glad we will be able to produce cotton,' Ntwina told SciDev.Net. 'Technology is likely to be our liberator.' (Deodatus Balile, "GM crop tests get green light in Tanzania," 28 February 2005)

It's pretty hard to understand how any farmer in Tanzania will find liberation in cotton cultivation under the current circumstances. Tanzania is suffering from miserably low global cotton prices and its own domestic increased production. Last year the government brought out the region's first ever set of direct subsidies to cotton farmers because the price they were receiving was far below the cost of production. According to the article "Tanzania to subsidise cotton farmers": "Tanzanian farmers will still be bracing themselves for hard times ahead, with an estimated 7.8 million tonnes of cotton, out of the 28 million tonnes produced, being surplus production. Tanzanian cotton production has also increased dramatically to 500,000 bales this year, far higher than the 2003/04 yield."
see: <>

Devlin Kujek, GRAIN, <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
GM FREE AFRICA list, 23 Mar 2005

2.Tanzania to Conduct Field-Trials of GM Cotton
The East African (Nairobi, Kenya)
March 28, 2005

Tanzania has joined Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Kenya in conducting confined field trials (CFT) for genetically modified crops that will eventually open its doors to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A Cabinet paper on GMO policy has already been prepared and parliament is scheduled to debate and approve the approach towards GMO technologies mid
this year, according to Dr Jeremiah Haki, Director of Research at the Ministry of Agricultural and Food Security.

Dr Haki says Tanzania, which largely depends on agriculture, cannot afford to ignore technologies that increase crop yields and profits and reduce farm costs.

Wilfred Ngirwa, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, issued a statement two weeks ago saying the ministry has, "Proactively participated in the development of a national policy for biotechnology that will soon be tabled in the parliament."

"This policy will give overall guidance on all issues related to biotechnology including priority areas for research and development, regulatory framework, sustainable use of biodiversity and resource requirements."

Mr Ngirwa said in the interim period, the ministry has established the Agricultural Biotechnology Scientific Advisory Committee (ABSAC) to advise the minister on issues related to GMOs including their importation, safe handling and testing.

Should there be an urgent need to import or test a GMO in this country before the coming into force of the requisite legislation, ABSAC may be called on to advise accordingly," said Mr Ngirwa adding, "The ministry has however not yet decided on the importation of genetically engineered crops for testing in the country.

Tanzania will start confined field trials (CFT) in the south of the country where cotton farming was stopped in 1968 in a government move to halt the spread of the redball worm disease that had hit the cotton crop.

The project has been well received by cotton farmers and depending on its outcome, GM cassava will be introduced next.

The CFTs in southern Tanzania are good news for Members of Parliament from the southern highlands, who have been calling on the government to find alternative means of restarting cotton production in the region.

South Africa is the only African country that is already commercially producing GM crops.

Tanzania is among the countries that ratified the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety, an international law negotiated under the Convention on Biological Diversity that has basic requirements for member countries to comply when pursuing GMO.

Dr Sivramiah Shanthu Shanth-aram, a Member of the WHO/FAO Consultative Committee on Biotechnology-Food Safety, was in Arusha, Tanzania in February for a seminar on GMO technology for East African plant inspectors.

The seminar was attended by senior phytosanitary inspectors from the Phytosanitary Services and Commission for Science and Technology of Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture and from the Kenya Plant Heath Services and Commission for Science and Technology.

The objective of the workshop was to familiarise phytosanitary inspectors with the principles and procedures of compliance and inspection required for the execution of safe CFTs of GM crops, as well as to enhance the participants' understanding of concepts and issues associated with modern agrobiotechnology.

The Kenyan and Ugandan participants said they were impressed with Tanzania's biosafety structure.

Dr Shantharam said the time was ripe for East Africa to start GMO related experiments, saying Africa should start to benefit from GMO technology, which has the potential of alleviating hunger in Third World countries.

Dr Gratian Bamwenda, the director general of the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), says his institution will closely monitor the development and testing of genetically engineered products and provide scientific advice concerning their safety.

He said bio-safety review teams will assess the potential risks associated with GMOs and evaluate the possibility of the risk occurring and the magnitude of harm.

3.Minister Keenja to officiate in Dar
United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
April 1, 2005
Posted to the web April 1, 2005
U.S. Embassy in Tanzania
Dar es Salaam
A US expert on biotechnology is visiting Tanzania to discuss with Tanzanian agriculture stakeholders the application of advances in biotechnology in the agricultural sector.

The expert, Dr. Vernon Gracen from Cornell University in the United States, will conduct workshops in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Arusha. Over 300 participants are expected to attend the workshops, 70 of them being in Dar es Salaam, 200 in Morogoro and 60 in Arusha.

The Dar es Salaam workshop will be officially opened by the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Hon. Charles Keenja, at the New Africa Hotel on Monday, April 4, 2005.

According to a statement from the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, the workshops will be a good opportunity for stakeholders and policy makers to share experiences on biotechnology, especially at this time when the government of Tanzania is debating on biotechnology policy and application of GMOs.

US Embassy's Spokesperson John Haynes, said the Embassy decided to invite Dr. Gracen to the country because biotechnology has great potential for protecting Tanzania against food scarcity, and increasing productivity by developing insect, drought, and virus resistant crops. Currently, for instance, scientists are developing virus resistant crops for Africa including cassava, maize and sweet potato.

"With the Tanzanian economy so heavily dependent on agriculture, Dr. Gracen can provide the latest information on biotechnology and possible local applications," Haynes said, adding: "Cornell University is one of the preeminent colleges on biotechnology in the United States and the world at large."

Haynes noted that commercially available foods and crops using biotechnology have been subjected to more testing and regulation than any other agricultural products and have been found safe.

There is a growing trend toward the use of agricultural biotechnology in the world with a forty-fold increase in the area of cultivation over the past seven years. In 2003, six countries (the USA, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, China and South Africa) grew 99 per cent of genetically engineered crops in the world. Recently, two new countries - India and The Philippines - have joined the group of countries that are growing genetically engineered crops.

Dr. Vernon Gracen is a leading authority on plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University in the United States. His primary areas of research involve maize breeding for disease and insect resistance and he teaches courses on traditional breeding methodologies and the application of new technologies such as molecular technologies to improve major crop species.

Dr. Gracen is also involved with the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSPII) as an advisor on the development of product commercialization packages. This programme supports the development and commercial release of biotech products in South Asia, South East Asia, East and West Africa. He advises primarily on product development, testing, release and distribution.

In August 2002, another US expert on agricultural biotechnology, Dr. C. S. Prakash visited Tanzania and met with Tanzanian scientists, describing the potential of bio-engineered foods for the benefit of the country. Dr. Prakash conducted a roundtable discussion at the Commission on Science and Technology (COSTECH) with the National Biotechnology Committee, and stakeholders on the Application of Biotechnology in Agricultural Production.

Agricultural biotechnology is a collection of scientific techniques used to improve plants, animals and micro-organisms. Based on an understanding of DNA, scientists have developed solutions to increase agricultural productivity. Starting from the ability to identify genes that may confer advantages on certain crops, and the ability to work with such characteristics very precisely, biotechnology enhances breeders' ability to make improvements in crops and livestock. Biotechnology enables improvements that are not possible with traditional crossing of related
species alone.