by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
August 15 2016
(NaturalNews) The dominance of GMOs in agriculture today is not based on their free market success. GMOs are prevalent because governments around the world subsidize these seeds, forcing small holders to introduce them. In this way, governments routinely assist biotech corporations in the takeover of a nations' agriculture and farmer's seed sovereignty. Of course, it's all done under the guise of "feeding the world!" But this couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, observations in Africa have found that smallholders in South Africa are actually burdened by genetically modified maize, which was forced on them through government program interventions starting in 2001. A paper in the South African Journal of Science by researchers Klara Fischer, Johnnie van den Berg and Charles Mutengwa found that South African smallholders would benefit more from a diverse selection of seed that is suitable to various growing conditions and changing pest pressures.
The research shows that non-GMO private initiatives are actually helping South African farmers access a wide range of maize seed that fits their ecological preferences and climate circumstances. This is ultimately providing greater food security, the paper points out.
GM Bt maize decreases yields because it is not suited for various conditions that smallholders have to deal with
Bt maize is genetically engineered to produce insecticidal proteins. Lab workers design the seed to increase its resistance to the African maize stem borer (Busseola fusca) and the Chilo borer (Chilo partellus). These pests can cause crop damage and hurt farmers' overall production. However, GM Bt maize was originally created for use in large-scale chemical-intensive farming. It has little use for smallholders in South Africa. because is is so expensive. GM maize is twice the price of popular non-GM hybrids and five times the price of open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) of seed. Because of this, smallholders must depend on government-sponsored intervention which subsidizes the rates. As smallholders are forced to participate in this scheme, the corporation that designed the seed profits no matter what. The biotech corporation profits even when smallholders struggle with yields due to varying climate and pest changes.
This one-size-fits-all chemical intensive approach to farming is also unnecessary and even catastrophic during specific seasons when the pestilence of the stem borer pests is at a natural low point. Between seasons at specific farming sites, pest pressure can fluctuate. Forcing expensive Bt maize on small holders can have a counterproductive effect if the pest pressure is low and cheaper open pollinated varieties could have better been used.
The input costs of introducing Bt maize may swallow farmers' returns, putting them in the hole unnecessarily. Smallholders that are strapped already may be forced to pay more for expensive GM seed during years when pest pressure was low to begin with. All the while, the corporation that designed the seed grows richer and gains control over them.
The research found that OPVs are better adapted to smallholders' agro-ecologies, changes in rain fall, and farmers' storage conditions. The open-pollinated varieties can better adapt to the environment and the weather, giving smallholders better control over their region. (High yields of Bt maize are only possible when the weather conditions are right, including timely rain, perfect storage condition and fertilization.)
Also, when smallholders begin planting Bt maize, they must also plant a refuge of non-Bt maize next to their Bt crop, allowing an alternative feeding ground for the stem borers. This seems counterproductive and a slap in the face to native farmers. Not surprisingly, many smallholders do not comply with this method.
Open-pollinated seed varieties replacing GMOs and having greater success in South Africa
Farmers don't deserve enslavement. Reintroducing OPVs of seed to small holders is proving to be absolutely essential to freeing their production, increasing their yields, and providing greater food security. The South African government is now working with the Agricultural Research Council and Grain Crops Institute to certify OPV maize that is more suitable to farmers' unique circumstances.
Now the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center is helping smallholders with a breeding program called Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa. This movement is helping farmers access several stress-tolerant natural varieties of maize seeds. These non-GMO seeds have traits that are suited for individual farmers' circumstances, including resistance to major diseases, low nitrogen in the soil, and drought conditions. These non-GMO seeds have a better variety of traits that may include tolerance to poor storage conditions, availability for early maturation and the ability to be processed at home.
These open-pollinated varieties not only are providing better yields in various situations but are outperforming GM seeds and hybrids. While hybrids' year-to-year yields drop, yields of OPVs are more stable. This provides greater food security down the long haul, helping farmers be less dependent on corporations for their yearly (expensive) seed.