Article written

  • on 02.11.2015
  • at 01:32 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Scientists accused of carrying out research that favours seed companies 0

The European Union’s stringent laws on maximum residue levels could threaten agricultural exports from Kenya and Uganda. Maximum residue levels (MRLs) are the upper legal levels of pesticide residues in food or feed. MRLs are meant to ensure the lowest possible consumer exposure.

In 2010 the EU became jittery about MRLs in Kenya’s fresh produce, although the country earned Ksh43.5 billion ($427 million) from horticulture exports to the EU in 2012.

Since 2000, Uganda’s exports of organic produce have risen both in volume and in value. Between 2004 and 2012, earnings from organic agriculture exports rose from $6.2 million to $28.4 million.

With organic farming growing at nearly 40 per cent per year, and with about 200,000 certified organic agriculture farmers, Uganda risks losing its premium market, because of stringent MRL rules. An estimated 185,000 hectares in Uganda are under organic farming.

Canadian professor Matthew A Schnurr, in a study on GMOs in Uganda, showed how scientists from developing countries are being co-opted into studies to help seed multinationals make money and in the process the livelihoods of communities risk destruction.

Prof Schnurr’s study quotes fears by activists that growing GMOs will undermine the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by supplanting their ecologically resilient seeds.

The study, titled Biotechnology and bio-hegemony in Uganda: Unravelling the social relations underpinning the promotion of genetically modified crops into new African markets, was based on over 70 interviews with research scientists, policy experts, lobbyists, and promotional organisations. It was conducted between 2009 and 2012.

Prof Schnurr details the promotion of GMO cotton. Traditionally, cotton in Uganda is a popular cash crop grown on mixed farms by smallholder farmers. At the time of Schnurr’s research, Monsanto’s Bt cotton was undergoing trials in the country.

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by Dorothy Kweyu

Photo Credits TEA Graphic

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