Research on biofortified sorghum, GM maize, and GM cowpeas continues in Burkina Faso
Slow Food and Burkinabe civil society are joining forces with the Citizens’ Collective for Agroecology (CCAE) in the fight against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by participating in a major march against GMOs, schedules to take place in Ouagadougou on June 2.
In Burkina Faso, thanks to Monsanto funding, experiments on GMOs aim to increase the productivity and resistance of maize, cowpeas, and biofortified sorghum. The privatization of seeds poses a serious threat to Burkina Faso and its food sovereignty. The decline of many local varieties, adapted to local territories and resistant to many of the effects of climate change, is likely to accelerate.
Jean Marie Koalga, coordinator of Slow Food in Burkina Faso and Slow Food International Councilor for West Africa, explains: “GMOs are a serious threat in Burkina Faso and history proves us right. Our role as Slow Food is, on the one hand, to promote advocacy towards the government and, on the other hand, to unite with other organizations to raise consumer awareness on the obvious impacts on the environment, but also on our local culture and identity. We must warn citizens of the loss of biodiversity, promote good agroecological practices, and upgrade our local gastronomy from our traditional seeds. The ‘good, clean and fair’ philosophy is crucial in this battle against Goliath.”
MARCH ON JUNE 2
The Citizens Collective for Agroecology and Burkinabe civil society are organizing a general march against GMOs for June 2. For a decade, Burkina Faso has been a laboratory for the research and development of biotechnologies that threaten the country’s biodiversity and food sovereignty.
SLOW FOOD ACTIVISM AGAINST GMOs IN BURKINA FASO
In April 2017, Slow Food and the CCAE took part in a “citizens’ tribunal” at The Hague, which condemned Monsanto. At Terra Madre Burkina Faso in February 2017, the Slow Food network organized a round table on local seeds and invited Ali Tapsoba, CCAE spokesperson, to speak about the risks of GMOs and the ongoing fight against them.
GMOs: ANOTHER WAY IS POSSIBLE
For Slow Food, the real solution to GMOs lies in promoting and nurturing local and traditional food biodiversity and supporting producers with better post-harvest handling practices, agroecological soil rehabilitation, techniques to reverse land degradation in fragile ecosystems, proper seed selection, and infrastructure improvement in rural communities. Among the many examples of Burkinabe food biodiversity listed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste catalogue is a variety of sorghum called Mossi Plateau sweet sorghum: Thanks to its short growth cycle (about 95 days) it matures before other types of sorghum and millet, and is an important source of food in times of shortage. This sorghum is also a source of income for producers. Slow Food calls upon small farmers to reject GMOs on their farms, and work collectively to resist this invasion.
THE HISTORY OF GMOs IN BURKINA FASO
In the early 2000s, Burkina Faso started growing Bt cotton (“Bt” stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that acts as an insecticide) in violation of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Since then, Monsanto has relied on Burkina Faso as a Trojan horse to spread GM crops in West Africa. In 2008, Bt cotton was distributed in the field despite the concerns of independent scientists and Burkinabe civil society. Due to a decline in cotton fiber quality and a drop in sales, the result was catastrophic and cotton companies returned to conventional cotton in 2016. However, experiments on GMOs continue, thanks to funding from Monsanto: The new culprits are biofortified sorghum and GM maize and cowpeas.
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Slow Food is a global grassroots organization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Slow Food involves over a million activists, chefs, experts, youth, farmers, fishers and academics in over 160 countries.