Opening up the South

Chapter 8: GM crops worldwide — Agricultural research and development — Promoting technology to farmers — Micro-credit agencies — Binding the farmer to the corporation — Lack of choice for farmers — Argentina: the cost of complying with US pressure — Preparing the ground for GM — The struggle for Africa’s agriculture — Resistance in the South — ConTill: Monsanto's brand of sustainable development

As the tables that follow show clearly, most GM crops to date have been planted in the North, primarily the US. Argentina is the only country in the South that grows them on a large scale; GM soya has been grown there since 1996. China is growing Bt cotton commercially, and a comparatively small amount of tobacco. However, the push into the South is beginning to accelerate. As noted earlier, 60 per cent of Indian farmers, 80 per cent of farmers in the Philippines and 90 per cent of African farmers still save their own seed.

In Africa, small farmers are fundamental to food security at household level, both saving and breeding their own seed. Most of the smallest farmers are women. The green revolution never really reached them and their use of inputs has remained small. Capturing new constituencies and markets is an essential part of corporate strategies. The millions of small subsistence farmers in the South who rely on farm-saved seed and do not use agrochemicals are seen as a largely untapped market with massive potential. Critics have often noted that GM agriculture does not address the real needs of the South and the companies recognise that they need to adapt their presentations accordingly, in order to find ways to reach this important constituency. Not surprisingly, considering that its traits are in 91 per cent of the GM crops planted
worldwide, Monsanto is at the forefront of this search. Pioneer also features strongly, a reminder of the agreement in 2002 between Monsanto and DuPont, owner of Pioneer, to share their technologies for mutual benefit. With combined seed sales of $3.5 billion out of total commercial seed sales of $30 billion for 2001, they are also the biggest seed players.

In order to progress, the companies are looking for allies and networks they can use, such as the CNFA. It is also important to influence the governments and institutions (such as universities and extension services) of countries in the global South, so that their funding and activities can support the foundations, the Syngenta Foundation and the Novartis Foundation, while Monsanto has the Monsanto Fund; these ‘non-profit’ arms can help to broker and fund projects with universities and research institutions in both North and South.

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