Friday, January 28, 2011



GM maize trials to begin in East Africa

By Katy Migiro

NAIROBI, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Confined field trials of genetically modified maize will begin in Kenya and Uganda this year once regulators approve it, the U.S.-based non-profit African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) said.

Scientists from Kenyan and Ugandan government research bodies, Monsanto (MON.N) and research body International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) developed the 12 varieties of Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) due to be planted.

Maize is the most widely grown staple food in Africa and is badly affected by drought. The scientists aim for the drought-resistant GM maize to increase yields by 24 to 35 percent.

"Everything we have seen in the simulated trials shows that we can safely test transgenic maize varieties in carefully controlled and confined field trials in Africa," James Gethi, the WEMA-Kenya country coordinator, said in a statement seen by Reuters late on Thursday.

Scientists conducted mock trials in simulated conditions in Kenya and Tanzania in 2009. The transgenic maize will now be planted in 1-2 hectare confined fields once Kenya and Uganda give regulatory approval.

The world's poorest continent, where agriculture contributes up to a quarter of GDP in some countries and is an important source of foreign exchange, is increasingly turning to genetically modified crops to bolster food supplies.

But critics and consumers, mostly in Africa and Europe, have questioned the safety of GM foods and have banned their import or cultivation due to fears they could harm humans and wildlife.

If the maize is approved, it will be licensed to AATF, which is funded by the United States and British governments.

"The expected WEMA transgenic drought-tolerant maize seed will be sub-licensed to local seed companies royalty-free for a term or duration to be determined based on future product deployment agreements," AATF Communications Officer Grace Wachoro said in a statement to Reuters.

"The confined field trials will enable the project to address safety issues."
AATF said the resulting trial maize crop will be destroyed in accordance with Kenyan and Ugandan research regulations.

Trials are also planned for South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania.

More than 30 countries, including all of the European Union, have restricted or banned the production of GM crops because they are not considered proven safe.


I am deeply concerned and worried about the serious health hazards, the irreversible environmental damage and the negative socio-economic consequences that could result from open-field trials (to be followed by commercial cultivation) of the WEMA GM maize in Tanzania and throughout the region.

In fact, there is ample independent scientific and empirical evidence from around the globe which clearly links GM maize - and GMO’s in general - to serious human and animal health hazards, irreversible environmental and ecological destruction and negative socio-economic consequences for both farmers and countries growing GMO’s.

In a study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, analyzing the effects of genetically modified foods on mammalian health, scientists have linked three of Monsanto's GM maize to organ damage.

The data “clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, as well as different levels of damages to heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system,” reported Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen.

Furthermore, several EU states and other countries around the world have banned GM maize and other GMO crops based on independent scientific and empirical evidence which link GM maize and other GMO crops to serious negative health hazards on both human and animals and to serious irreversible damage and destruction to the environment and the entire ecosystem. The German government has recently banned Monsanto's GM Maize (MON 810)- the only GMO crop authorized by the EU - calling it "a danger to the environment.."

Tragically, however, at the same time East African countries are set to begin open-field testing of Monsanto's so-called "drought-resistant" GM maize to " fight hunger and poverty..." The AATF is blindly pursuing regulatory approval for open field testing of its WEMA GM maize in Tanzania and throughout the region, irrespective of the documented scientific and empirical evidence on the hazards and consequences associated with GM maize/GMO’s, and in violation of the Precautionary Principle contained in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which Tanzania has ratified.

I have written to the Executive Director of the AATF – Mr. Daniel Mataruka – to express my worries and deep concern about this issue. Unfortunately - although not surprisingly - I have not yet had a response from the AATF. I am enclosing a copy of my email below for your information.

Daniel Mataruka
Executive Director
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)
P.O. Box 30709
Nairobi 00100, Kenya

Re: Safety of open-field testing of Monsanto’s WEMA GM maize in East Africa

Mr. Mataruka,

I am writing to you regarding the open field trials of the 12 so called ‘drought tolerant” varieties of Monsanto’s Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) scheduled to begin this year in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania, as indicated in a press release by the AATF published on your website.


I hereby wish to briefly share with you and draw your attention to the following documented independent scientific evidence linking GM Maize to grave human and animal health hazards and to inevitable and irreversible environmental genetic pollution and environmental destruction, before you open Pandora’s box with your dangerous experiments…


Scientific study links Monsanto’s GM Maize to organ damage

In what is being described as the first ever and most comprehensive study of the effects of genetically modified foods on mammalian health, an independent scientific study published by Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini - a molecular biologist at the University of Caen (France) and President of the Scientific Council of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering - in the International Journal of Biological Sciences has linked three of Monsanto’s GM maize with organ damage.

Three varieties of Monsanto’s GM corn – Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup® herbicide-absorbing NK 603 – were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities. The data used for this approval, ironically, is the same data that Professor Seralini and other researchers used and studied to link Monsanto’s three GM maize varieties with organ damage.

The data “clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, as well as different levels of damages to heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system,” reported Séralini.

Link to the study:

This latest study conforms with a 2007 study by professor Seralini on Monsanto’s (Mon 863) maize, published in Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, using the same data. (see below)

In May 2005, a report by the Independent in the UK revealed that secret research conducted by Monsanto on its GM maize MON863 showed significant variations between the rats fed with conventional maize and those fed with MON863 . These included an increased number of white blood cells in the males, reduced immature red blood cells in females, a significant increase in blood sugar in the females or a higher frequency of physical irregularities in the kidneys of the males, such as reduced weight and inflammation.

Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini has conducted an analysis of the Monsanto study, the results of which are briefly summarized below:

The study revealed that rats fed the GM maize for three months showed signs of liver and kidney toxicity, as well as differences in weight gain between the sexes.

Professor Seralini writes:

"Our counter-evaluation show that there are signs of toxicity and that nobody can say scientifically and seriously that consumption of the transgenic maizeMON863 is safe and good for health," "We have the first signs of toxicity that appear at the level of body weight, the kidneys, and the liver, and that are also different between the sexes indicating deeper effects at the hormone level."

"Considering that the human and animal populations could be exposed at comparable levels to this kind of food or feed that has been authorised by several countries, and that these are the best mammalian toxicity tests available, we strongly recommend a new assessment and longer exposure of mammals to these diets, with cautious clinical observations, before concluding that MON863 is safe to eat," "The GM maize should not be allowed to be licensed as food or feedstuff in EU countries," said lead author of the study, Professor Gilles Eric Séralini

Environmental group Greenpeace has demanded an immediate and complete recall of MON863 from the global market, and also called on an urgent reassessment of all other authorised GM foods by governments.

"It is the first time that independent research, published in a peer-review journal, proves that a GMO authorised for human consumption presents signs of toxicity," said Arnaud Apoteker from Greenpeace France.

The study is published on-line in the peer-review journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

Furthermore, several other independent scientific studies have found serious negative human and animal health effects associated with GMO consumption.

In fact, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has issued and published an alarming statement which states that “ there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.”

The AAEM writes:

Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.”

A recent 2008 study links GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn. This study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signaling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth and disruption of the intestinal immune system."

"The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.” Specificity of the association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. Also, because of the mounting data, it is biologically plausible for Genetically Modified Foods to cause adverse health effects in humans " concludes the AAEM


Furthermore, several EU states and over 30 countries around the world have declared a moratorium and banned GM maize and other GMO crops based on documented independent scientific and empirical evidence which link GM maize and other GMO crops to grave negative health effects on both human and animals and to serious irreversible hazards to the environment and the ecosystem as a whole.

Germany bans Monsanto’s GM Maize, calling it “ a danger to the environment.."

The German government has banned Monsanto's GM Maize (MON 810) last year - the only GMO crop authorized by the EU - calling it "a danger to the environment.."

“The decision was announced on by German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner, writes the BBC. Ms Aigner, said she had concluded that "there is a justifiable reason to believe that... MON 810 presents a danger to the environment". Ms Aigner said the decision to ban it now, based on new data, was purely scientific, not political.”

France, Greece, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria and Hungary have all banned Monsanto's genetically modified maize using the EU’s precautionary principle because of serious scientific concerns on the long-term effects of the GM maize on the environment. The cultivation of all other GM crops is banned in the EU.


Genetically modified maize contaminates crops in seven German states
Despite a Europe-wide ban

Genetically modified maize has contaminated local maize crops in seven German states, according to research from Greenpeace. The state's agriculture ministry confirmed the research on Sunday. "This is, to date, the largest scandal concerning genetically modified seeds in Germany," said Alexander Hissting, an agriculture expert with Greenpeace.

The scandal occurred in March of this year, when Pioneer and other agribiotech corporations sold 23 different varieties of maize seeds contaminated by Monsanto’s illegal NK603 to farmers who cultivated them on 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) in seven states in Germany, where contaminated farmers had to destroy their crops. [6] According to the German-based Foundation on Future Farming [7], the seed companies refused to accept liability and have not compensated farmers for up to hundreds of millions of Euro in economic losses.

Greenpeace says the corn already growing in the fields must now be destroyed, which could lead to millions of euros in losses for farmers. According to the organization's research, blood tests in animals have shown genetically modified corn to have a significant effect to the liver and kidneys.

"Putting the consumer at risk is not up for discussion," said Hissting.,,5657053,00.htm

“Massive Genetic contamination” of local maize in Spain

A report published by Greenpeace titled “ Impossible Coexistence” warns about the health and environmental hazards of GM Maize commercially grown in Spain and the “massive genetic contamination” of local maize crops:

The commercial cultivation of GM maize in Spain is causing “massive genetic contamination” according to Greenpeace.

“ The first cases of GE contamination have already occurred in Spain. In 2001, organically grown maize in the Navarra region was contaminated by Bt176 maize and, as consequence, farmers suffered losses since the crop couldn't be marketed as organic produce.

"In several cases the affected farmers suffered economic losses, as they were not able anymore to sell the contaminated maize at a premium market value,"claimed the report.

"Despite guarantees by various Spanish governments that guidelines and controls would ensure safety, farmers and consumer choice the reality has been the opposite.
"The Spanish experience demonstrates that GM and non-GM co-existence is a fallacy
," said Ritsema.

"Testimonials from farmers demonstrate that the unabated growth of the GM industry now represents the single largest threat to their livelihoods, especially in the regions Aragn and Catalonia where GM crops are mainly cultivated."

Greenpeace claims that the report, written in cooperation with farmer organisation Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group Plataforma Trangnics Fora!, is based on research including laboratory tests of samples taken from the maize fields of 40 Spanish organic and conventional farmers.

It claims to show that in almost a quarter of the investigated cases, unintended and unwanted presence of GM maize was found in the maize fields of non-GM farmers. The pressure group says that contamination was as high as 12.6 per cent.

The Spanish situation highlights the need for measures to prevent the genetic contamination of conventional and organic crops and should serve as a warning for the other European countries.

"This report should be taken as a warning to the Commission and Europe in general of the dangers of GM production, " said Greenpeace campaigner Geert Ritsema

Allowing contaminated seeds to be put on the market would lead to a creeping and unmonitorable contamination of all European farmlands by GMOs that would make it impossible to sustain a GE-free supply after a few years. GE companies should instead be made legally and financially liable for the environmental and economic damages their products can cause.

Preventing genetic contamination and other negative effects of GE crops should now be the number one priority for the Spanish Government instead of actively promoting GE agriculture in Spain. We call on Spain to apply the precautionary principle and to stop the growing of GE crops. The Spanish example should be a warning signal to other European countries not to allow GM crops.

As a result, Greenpeace is calling on the Spanish authorities to suspend the cultivation of GM in Spain. It is also calling on EU ministers and the European Commission to prevent the cultivation of GM crops in other EU countries.

Link to the report:

Genetic contamination of local maize in Mexico

Furthermore, a scientific study published in decembre 2008 in the Journal of Molecular Ecology confirms the genetic contamination of native Mexican corn in southern Mexico, as reported earlier by Chapela and Quist in 2002 (see below). The study found evidence of the 35S Promotor, a trait widely used in genetically modified crops to promote herbicide or disease resistance.

Source :

link to study:

On 17 September 2001, Mexico’s Secretary for Environmental and Natural Resources released partial results of its own study, confirming that transgenic maize had been found in 15 of 22 areas tested in Oaxaca and nearby Puebla. [15]

Just over two months later, Chapela’s team published in Nature. ‘We report’, wrote Chapela and Quist, ‘the presence of introgressed transgenic DNA constructs in native maize landraces grown in remote mountains in Oaxaca, Mexico, part of the Mesoamerican centre of origin and diversification of this crop’. In plain English, they were reporting contamination of native corn by its GM equivalent.

‘Whatever the source, it’s clear that genes are somehow moving from bioengineered corn to native corn’, says Chapela. ‘This is very serious because the regions where our samples were taken are known for their diverse varieties of native corn, which is something that absolutely needs to be protected. This native corn is also less vulnerable to disease, pest outbreaks and climatic changes.’ [17]

In January 2002, the Mexican Ministry of the Environment confirmed their findings from the previous year and said that in some remote regions of Oaxaca and Puebla, between 20–60 per cent of tested farms had traces of transgenic material. [53]

In April, Jorge Soberon, the executive secretary of Mexico’s National Commission on Biodiversity, announced the findings of the Mexican government’s research at the International Conference on Biodiveristy at The Hague. Soberon confirmed that the tests had now shown the level of contamination was far worse than initially reported in both Oaxaca and Puebla. A total of 1876 seedlings had been taken by government researchers and evidence of contamination had been found at 95 per cent of the sites. One field had 35 per cent contamination of plants alone. [86]

There have now been episodes of GM contamination in Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, India, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, the UK and the USA, amongst others. [95]

In fact many biotech scientists have signed on to a statement that says that GM contamination is inevitable and scientific evidence confirms the “inevitable” and irreversible hazards of genetic contamination of local food crops by GM crops.

Nature Biotechnology candidly pointed out, ‘gene containment is next to impossible with the current generation of GM crops … gene flow from GM crops to related plants thus remain a primary concern for regulators and one that companies need to address’. [91]

Even C.S. Prakash from– the pro-biotechnology industry’s spokesperson par excellence – has stated that the fact that GM contamination has occurred is now not disputed by the GM opponents. ‘Quist and Chapela have subsequently presented data that further supports the presence of transgenes in maize landraces – a point that has not been disputed’, argued Prakash [85] ‘It is important to recognize that the kind of gene flow alleged in the Nature paper is inevitable...’ [90]

My question to you Mr Daniel Mataruka regarding the safety of open-field testing of WEMA GM Maize in East Africa:

In view of the above independent scientific evidence documenting the health and environmental hazards associated with GM maize and the “inevitable” and irreversible genetic contamination of local maize crops by GM maize:

a) How can you guarantee the safety of the WEMA GM maize on both human & animal health, the environment and the ecosystem?

b) Have you carried out independent scientific health and environmental risk assessment studies for each one of the 12 varieties of the WEMA GM maize as legally required by article 15 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety?


1. Risk assessments undertaken pursuant to this Protocol shall be carried out
in a scientifically sound manner, in accordance with Annex III and taking into
account recognized risk assessment techniques. Such risk assessments shall be
based, at a minimum, on information provided in accordance with Article 8 and
other available scientific evidence in order to identify and evaluate the possible
adverse effects of living modified organisms on the conservation and
sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to
human health.

As stated in Annex III of the Protocol : RISK ASSESSMENT -Objective

The objective of risk assessment, under this Protocol, is to identify and
evaluate the potential adverse effects of living modified organisms on the
conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the likely potential
receiving environment, taking also into account risks to human health.

c) What regulatory, precautionary and preventive measures have the ATFF, Monsanto and its institutional partners put in place to prevent and protect the local maize crop from “inevitable” (and irreversible) genetic contamination resulting from the open field testing of the WEMA GM maize in East Africa?

d) And finally, who will be legally and financially liable in case of damage to both human & animal health and to the economy, the environment and the ecosystem as a whole resulting from the open-field testing (and planned commercial planting) of the WEMA GM maize?

I thank you for shedding some light into my interrogations, and I look forward to your response.

Note: Although the AATF has acknowledge receipt of my letter (see below), they have not yet responded to my inquiry.

RE: Safety of WEMA Maize...Thursday, January 13, 2011 2:54 AM
From: "Muchiri, Nancy (AATF)" View contact details
Cc: "Wachoro, Grace (AATF)"

Dear Arya,

This is to confirm receipt of your mail and enquiry to which we will respond as soon as possible.

Kind rgds for now

Nancy Muchiri
Communications and Partnerships Manager,
P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi, 00100, Kenya
Tel: 254-20 422 3700 • Direct line 254-20 422 3733 • Fax 254-20 422 3701
Via USA – Tel: 1 650 833 6660 • Fax: 1 650 833 6661 • Cell 254 735992206

Notes & references

4. Testimonies of Contamination, Greenpeace, 15 October 2009. This report documents the socioeconomic and human impacts of GM contamination, based on testimonials from farmers and food producers who have been directly or indirectly harmed as a result of contamination in Spain, the only EU Member State whose government allows the commercial cultivation of GM maize. The testimonials depict the stark reality of serious contamination of conventional and organic crops and the food chain. Download report:
6. These include five seed varieties sold by Pioneer Hi-Bred and 18 by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences and other agri-biotech companies. The contamination was discovered by Lower Saxony’s Ministry of Agriculture at the beginning of March 2010. For details see:
7. Foundation on Future Farming:
14 Quist and Chapela (2001) op cit, p541.

15 Dalton (2001) op cit.

16 Quist and Chapela (2001) op cit, p543.

17 Yang,S (2001) Transgenic DNA Discovered in Native Mexican Corn, According to a New Study by UC Berkeley Researchers, University of California Press Release, 29 November.
53 ETC Group (2002) GM Pollution in the Bank? Time for “Plan B”, News Release, Winnipeg, 4 February; Magallon Larson, H (2002) Interview with Author, 5 March.
86 Brown, P (2002) ‘Mexico’s Vital Gene Reservoir Polluted by Modified Maize’, The Guardian, London, 19 April.

90 Prakash, C (2002) Joint Statement of Scientific Discourse in Mexican GM Maize Scandal, 24 February.

91 Nature Biotechnology (2002) op cit, p527.

95 Villar, J (2001) GMO Contamination – Around The World, Friends of the Earth International, Amsterdam; Hager, N (2002) Seeds of Distrust, Craig Potton, Nelson, pp12–20.

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