Monsanto GM crops, Egypt

Description

In 2008, the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture approved a decision by the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) and Seed Registration Committee to allow for commercialization of a genetically modified Bt corn variety[1]. At that stage the plan was to cultivate the BT corn in 10 governates throughout Egypt. Seed marketing to producers and extension agents had already started through Cairo-based Fine Seeds International. This followed field experiments carried out to study the effect of encoding the Bt gene in corn plants on infestation in 2002,2003 and 2004, in Kaha, Kaliobia governorate, Egypt[2]. Called Ajeeb-YG, the pest-resistant corn variety was produced by crossing Monsanto YieldGard Bt Insect Resistant Corn with an Egyptian maize variety called Ajeeb. Concerns were expressed that the new variety would fall under the ownership of Monsanto, depriving the country of its seed diversity. Further concerns were over the contractual obligations of small farmers in being able to save and replant seed and their vulnerability to foreign companies for seed and fertiliser, which would effectively destroy their livelihoods and cultural traditions[3].

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Basic Data
NameMonsanto GM crops, Egypt
CountryEgypt
SiteEgypt
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Biopiracy and bio-prospection
GMOs
Specific CommoditiesCorn/Maize
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe first shipment of 70 tons arrived in Egypt in December 2010 and was planted in ten governorates without restriction on planting. The second and most recent shipment of 40 tons arrived in January 2012, but was seized by the Ministry of Agriculture because it was not properly approved.

Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesOLAM- SICOBOIS from Egypt
Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute
International and Financial InstitutionsUS Agency for International Development (USAID)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLand Centre for Human Rights (Egypt), Bozoor Baladi (Seeds of My Country), Africa Centre for Biodiversity, Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace International
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has petitioned the African Union to consider a ban on the cultivation, import and export of genetically modified (GM) crops in Africa at its January 2013 summit. The request comes at the same time the Kenyan government has banned genetically modified food imports, citing insufficient evidence assuring public safety. Public health officers have already received orders to enforce the ban at all points of entry. In a statement reportedly signed by over 400 African organizations, the ACB criticized GM foods for lack of safety information, as well as for patents and privatization that it says threaten small farmers[4].
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination
OtherContamination of the Egyptian seed pool with genetically modified varieties.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
OtherExperience in other countries, such as India, have shown the potential for increased indebtedness as small-scale farmers come to rely on seed companies for seed and fertiliser.
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseNew legislation
Moratoria
Development of AlternativesAs part of its obligations under the Cartagena Protocol, Egypt must create its own national biosafety law. Such a law was drafted in 2004 by a committee composed of representatives from the ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Trade and Industry, members of the private sector, scientists specializing in GMO issues and officials from the chamber of commerce and the customs department. However, the Ministry of Agriculture blocked the process, in a move some saw as politically motivated. The law will require a risk management assessment for any GMO product that enters Egypt, the correct labeling of all GMOs, and the close monitoring of every step of the import process, including the conditions of shipment. Additionally the law would require a detection lab test of every new GMO shipment to Egypt to examine its properties and components. Under the law, the developer is liable for any environmental damage caused by their product. Under the new Egyptian dispensation, the draft law has been sent to Parliament and it is hoped that it will be passed sooner rather than later[5]. In 2012, Bozoor Baladi (Seeds of My Country) launched a youth campaign to raise awareness about food production problems in Egypt, including the spread of genetically-modified seeds. The campaign encourages Egyptians to eat locally grown fruits and vegetables[6].
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Egypt has placed a ban on GM crops until national legislation is developed. However, GM crops have been cultivated in the country for four years and it remains to be seen if the ban is lifted once national legislation has been developed and approved.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

National Environmental Biosafety Law Draft

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
[click to view]

Egypt: National Strategy and Action Plan for Biodiversity Conservation
[click to view]

References

[1] USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (2008). Egypt Biotechnology Corn Variety Approval. Available at: Accessed 25 January 2013.
[click to view]

[2] Massoud, Magdy A. (2005). The Influence of Encoding BT Corn Hybrids on the Infestation of the Corn Borers in Egypt. Available at: Accessed 25 January 2013.
[click to view]

[3] Sawahel, Wagdy (2008). First Egyptian Approval Of Genetically Modified Corn Raises Questions. Available at Accessed 25 January 2013.
[click to view]

[4] Petition to African Union calling for a ban on GMOs (2012). Available at: Accessed 26 January 2013.
[click to view]

[5] Egypt Independent (2012). Egypts legal battle to regulate Monsantos GMOs. Available at: Accessed 25 January 2013.
[click to view]

[6] Mahmoud, Mohamed (2012). New Egyptian initiative promotes local food and vegetables. Available at: Accessed 27 January 2013.
[click to view]

Links

Bafana, Busani (2012). Africa Calling for a GMO-Free Continent. Available at: Accessed 26 January 2013.
[click to view]

Genetic Rights Foundation (2011) Map of GMO cultivated areas as a % of total. Available at Accessed 9 January 2013.
[click to view]

Land Centre for Human Rights (undated). GMOs Violate Human Rights in Clean Food and Safe Agriculture. Available at Accessed 25 January 2012.
[click to view]

Egyptian Biosafety Clearing- House
[click to view]

Media Links

AFP (2008). Egypt produces first genetically modified crops harvest. Available at: Accessed 24 January 2013.
[click to view]

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Meta Information
ContributorPatrick Burnett
Last update08/04/2014
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