GM Crops

ActionAid Says its Health Warnings In Uganda Against GM Foods were Wrong

The UK arm of ActionAid has told The Independent newspaper that the health warnings it had issued in Uganda against GM crops ‘should not have happened and have been stopped.’

According to the newspaper’s investigation, the UK charity had shown farmers in Uganda pictures of rats with tumours as part of its campaign to prevent GM technology from being made legal in the country. It had also commissioned radio commercials warning of the dangers of eating GM foods despite a ruling by the World Health Organization that they have ‘no effects on human health,’ the newspaper reported. The campaign had gone on for sixteen months.

In a posting on its website, ActionAid said the Uganda project is ‘not a significant part’ of its anti-poverty programme. It said its guidelines advise its associates ‘not to take a position on the health impacts of genetically modified organisms because health related research is highly contested and we not have the necessary expertise to make informed decisions. ‘

Million of  GM meals have been eaten since the technology was commercialized and no peer-reviewed scientific study has show GM foods to be harmful.

ActionAid said ‘we are neither for nor against GM technology,’ but we support a precautionary approach. The reality is that there have been mixed experiences with GMOs worldwide and that context is everything.’ It did not how context could make a technology harmful. While trying to extricate itself from the Ugandan embarrassment, ActionAid UK left enough room for manouevre. ‘We do not run any global campaigns on GM but in some countries there is an overlap between the GM debate and the challenges of feeding the world’s 935 million hungry people, ‘ it said. Click here to see ActionAid’s post.

GM projects in Uganda are philanthropic and supported by NGOs  like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Scientists in Britain said the incident was not isolated and that NGOs have been using ‘widely inaccurate scientific allegations’ to stop GM technology.

The Independent visited Uganda and spoke to ActionAid as part of an investigation into the current state of GM technology nearly twenty years after the first GM commercial crops were developed. The country is debating a law that would allow a genetically modified version of the country’s staple food, matoke or green banana plant, to be grown by farmers.  The plant, developed with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will have resistance to banana wilt that has devastated the crop. Anti-GM campaigners claim it is a backdoor for big biotech companies like Monsanto to enter the Ugandan market. Click here for the full story

(Top picture shows wo farmers ActionAid works with in eastern Uganda.It is taken from its website)


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