Monsanto’s Massive Push Into Africa

Recouping high cost left for the future
By Heide B. Malhotra
Heide B. Malhotra
Heide B. Malhotra
October 30, 2013 Updated: October 30, 2013

Millions of people worldwide are against food products grown with genetically modified organisms (GMO). In May, two million people voiced their distaste of GMO products during demonstrations in 50 countries, according to a Natural News article from August. 

Despite demonstrations, especially in Western countries, where many people don’t believe that GMO products are safe for human consumption, Monsanto Co. is searching for new markets. 

According to the Natural News, Monsanto sent out “‘Biotech ambassadors’ [who are] engaging in massive Monsanto-backed PR operations to push GMOs into Africa.” 

Monsanto does not deny its interest in Africa and states on its website that it provides maize germplasm—plant material that can be used to grow new plants—to develop maize hybrids in Africa. It also donates to the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project, which provides valuable research for growing drought-tolerant and insect-protected products. 

The Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation is the leader of the WEMA project, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and USAID provide funds.


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According to Monsanto, “The project is in its sixth year and is approaching a significant milestone as the first WEMA conventional maize hybrid will be available for commercial planting in Kenya by the end of 2013.”

Expenditures and Profits Mushrooming

Nevertheless, “the genetic modification of crops is a lengthy and obscenely expensive business,” states a report from the African Center for Biosafety, released this month. 

Research and development plus getting regulatory approval is rather costly, and the companies need to recoup the funds they expended before their move into Africa. 

In 2012, Monsanto claimed that it “invests more than $500 million annually to identify and develop new solutions for growers.” 

As far back as 2002, the GMO producing companies built into their sales prices the costs to develop, produce, and market their products, according to another report by the African Center for Biosafety, released this month. 

Before genetically modified food hit the market, seed expenditures for corn farmers were growing at a rate of $0.30 per acre annually. Costs increased at a rate of $1.34 per acre annually in the five years after the GMO seeds were introduced. 

“The impact of the Bt [Bacillus thuringienis] corn premium on seed industry profits has been remarkable,” the African Center report states. 

Earnings for Syngenta AG, a global Swiss chemical company that markets seeds and pesticides and produces GMO products, increased by more than 18 percent between 1998 and 2000. During the same period, Monsanto’s earnings increased by 9 percent, and DuPont Pioneer’s (formerly Pioneer Hi-Bred) increased by 7.3 percent.

Greed and Agricultural Dominance

With profits earned in the developed nations, Monsanto is going into Africa and providing its services for free, according to the African Center report. 

However, the cost of going into Africa needs to be recouped in time. At this time, the push toward producing GMO products, mainly maize, is done free of charge to the African farmers. This looks very charitable, especially with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and USAID involved.

It gets problematic in the future, because the farmer has to continue to buy seeds from Monsanto instead of returning to the age-old way of growing maize, which is saving and reusing seeds. 

The problem lies in the fact that the chemicals that entered the ground when using the GMO products take years before they are completely gone, while the land lies fallow and can’t be used. 

“It is about power, control and greed,” according to a September Natural News article. Quoting the Motley Fool, the article concludes, “A new era of agricultural colonialism will be born where the local farmer ends up becoming enslaved to the global profit demands of corporate agriculture.”