By: Nada Badawi
Greenpeace expressed its concern towards the Egyptian government’s “scandal” over its use of genetically modified (GM) crops, according to a press release published yesterday.
The release said that official statements by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture on their use of GM crops conflicted with a report published by The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), an organisation funded by the biotech industry.
Greenpeace highlighted the government’s position regarding the presence of GM crops in Egypt, even though it had announced before that the last shipment of GM seeds was discarded.
In 2008, Egypt reached an agreement with American multinational agriculture corporation Monsanto to trade in and grow GM corn.
Two shipments of 70 and 40 tonnes arrived in Egypt in December 2010.
The 70-tonne shipment was planted in 10 governorates, whereas the 40-tonne shipment arrived in January 2012.
The plantations were later destroyed by the Agriculture Ministry as they were not properly licensed.
However, the ISAAA report revealed the opposite.
Sustainable Agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Ahmed El Droubi said: “The Egyptian people are entitled to know what is planted on our land and what we are eating.”
“The risks of GMs and the threats they pose are unquestionable. We demand the Egyptian government puts in place clear biosafety laws banning GMOs [Genetically Modified Organisms],” he continued.
Planting GM crops has been reported to cause several problems, one of them is mainly environmental, as they tend to pollinate, threaten biodiversity and could likely contaminate non-GM crops.
Other issues are legal and related to the planting process, as the new seeds eventually become the property of the company; in this case, Monsanto.
In the case of a plague, or disease attacks, the GM crops could be significantly affected, which could lead to endangering food security of corn, soy, canola or cotton.
The report put Egypt as the third largest in Africa to use biotech crops, planting 1,000 hectares of GM maize in 2012.
On the other hand, the Minister of Agriculture Salah Abdel Momen reported that “the only licensed shipment of a GM crop to enter Egypt in 2012, a 40 tonne shipment of the GM maize, was to be withheld and executed by his Ministry”.
“Greenpeace continues to emphasize the urgent need for the Egyptian government to take a stance on GM plantations as a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety,” the release stated.
The report also warned that GM crops could significantly affect farmers and consumers once they become “dependent on foreign companies; thus undermining Egypt national security.”