No GM Bananas on World Environment Day !

MEDIA RELEASE by Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, GM Free Latin America, GM Free Australia Alliance, and GMO Free FNQ   

Professor James Dale, GMO banana project leader, will be the keynote speaker at a James Cook University ECOweek Forum today, to celebrate World Environment Day, in a move which has angered local people and caused protest from as far away as Africa, the United States and Latin America.

The GM banana research project, backed by millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and spearheaded by Professor Dale at Queensland University of Technology, is engineering bananas destined for Uganda and other East African countries, where the “bio-fortified” fruit is supposed to solve the many nutritional problems there.

The GMO bananas are being grown in Innisfail and are destined for human trials on young women students at the Iowa State University.

However, the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) opposes the GM banana. In an open letter sent in December 2014, AFSA expressed its concern both with the project of promoting GM crops in Africa and the design of the study itself. Over 150 organizations and experts from Africa, the US, Europe and Germany signed on to the letter. (1)

AFSA advocacy officer, Bridget Mugambe, a Ugandan, said “This GM banana is an insult to our food, to our culture, to us a nation, and we strongly condemn it. The GMO banana is engineered to have high beta-carotene content and thus solve vitamin A deficiency, but the genes of interest were pirated by the genetic engineers from natural bananas. While many Ugandans may need more vitamin A, the solution to the problem isn’t high-tech, risky, expensive, ineffective GMOs we are a country with a diversity of foods rich in Vitamin A. The solution is a balanced diet”.

Professor Dale’s GMO banana project has been placed unaccountably “on hold”, after students at Iowa State University petitioned against the planned “feeding trial” where 12 students were to be each paid $900 to eat the fruit. It is not known if the GM bananas have been tested for toxicity or the potential to cause allergies, before the plan to feed them students.

Professor Dale stated to the Des Moines Register that he still hopes to complete the trial “by midyear”. (2)

Andre Leu, President of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), a resident of Mossman in Far North Queensland said "GMO Bananas are an absolute waste of research funds.  We already have numerous cultivars of bananas in the world with high levels of beta-carotene, so there's no need to genetically modify bananas with beta-carotene for Africa. “Genetically modifying bananas for increased iron for Indian women is also completely unnecessary because research has shown that simply increasing the levels of fresh local fruits and vegetables in the diet will solve the problems of iron deficiency and resulting anaemia, while also giving a wider range of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

“Lastly, many scientists are concerned about the use of the cauliflower mosaic virus and other gene-modifying 'promoters' which can lead to an increase in transgenic viral bacterium with unknown consequences.  There are hundreds of scientific papers showing damage to health from GMO's and no scientific consensus on GMO safety" (3)  Mr Leu said.

Local concern about the risk of contamination is growing.“We object to Far North Queensland being used for GMO experiments where GMO products put at risk our whole thriving and expanding organic and biodynamic food industry” said Geoff Holland, local resident.

“We saw recently in Western Australia where organic farmer Steve Marsh lost his certification because his organic canola crop was contaminated by GMO canola from Michael Baxter’s neighbouring farm.   South Australia and Tasmania have moratoria on GMO crops, and for good reason.  GMO is bad news for Far North Queensland” Holland said.

“GMO ‘trials’ have contaminated non-GMO crops in other countries, such the Oregon GMO wheat incident in 2013, where unapproved plants were discovered in a farmer’s field, although ‘trials’ had finished years earlier.  This caused financial losses and disruption in wheat markets. (4)” said Jessica Harrison, Coordinator of the GM- Free Australia Alliance, which also opposes the GMO banana project.

For a critique of the myths pedalled by the GMO industry, a full report by respected academics Dr Fagan and Dr Antoniou is available free at http://gmomythsandtruths.earthopensource.org/

The ECOWeek debate will take place at the Crowther Lecture Theatre of the Smithfield Campus of James Cook University, between 4.00pm and 7.30pm on Friday 5 June.

(1) http://afsafrica.org/afsa-open-letter-opposing-human-feeding-trials-involving-gm-banana/

(2) The Des Moines Register, 13 Jan 2015 
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/13/iowa-trial-of-gmo-bananas-is-delayed/21678303/

(3) http://www.i-sis.org.uk/camvrecdis.php  (Institute of Science in Society)

(4) http://rt.com/usa/gmo-wheat-oregon-mystery-275/

http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/15872-human-feeding-experiment-with-gm-bananas-on-hold

Comment :

Geoff Holland [email protected]  Mob  0499 506 448

Jessica Harrison  [email protected]   Mob 0407 307 231

Bridget N Mugambe  Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, Kampala, Uganda    [email protected]  

Tel: 256 775692499

Andre Leu, President,   International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) [email protected]   0428 459 870