Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is an enthusiastic supporter of Monsanto, but now pressure is mounting on his government to reject GMO technologies as solutions to end hunger

Normally Tanzanian lawmakers would ‘prove’ their radicalism by blasting rival parties, state authorities, public corporations or ministers for shoddy work done or millions that go missing. They would hardly ever take a swipe at a multinational corporation, much less an American one.

Yet that is what happened recently when Hon Halima Mdee (Chadema) called upon the government to sever its relations with the international seed company Monsanto, which is a major stakeholder in the country’s campaign for a green revolution.

She reminded the government that the firm had caused farmers misery and suffering in many countries, including the US, where it is based.

The company, known for the production of genetically modified seeds, has been blacklisted in India, Argentina, Chile and eight European countries because the seeds it sells to farmers at high prices have been a disaster, prompting some nations to institute legal action against it, Ms Mdee said.

‘Last year the company committed $50 billion to producing seeds for Africa, but the firm is known around the world as a major producer of genetically modified seeds, which are harmful to farmers and the environment,’ she cautioned

Ms Mdee suspected that given the company’s bad reputation, President Jakaya Kikwete might have been misinformed by his aides. ‘This is because we know that these large multinationals have a tendency to use their financial muscle to compromise government leaders.’

Shadow Agriculture Minister Rose Kamili noted that India has banned the use of cotton seeds produced by Monsanto after research established that they were a threat to farmers and the environment.

In fact more than 1,000 farmers had committed suicide as a result of debts resulting from buying seeds from Monsanto at high prices.

The points brought up by the two ladies hardly triggered any reaction or rejoinder. Probably the lawmakers were not well informed of the subject matter, or they were not too keen to irritate the conglomerates who promote genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the donor agencies that back them.

Yet the debate is no doubt raging within the civil society, among groups that are running concerted campaigns against GMO. But they are not having an easy ride, for Monsanto is applying pressure in the country for amendment to regulations so as to allow GMO.

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