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Monsanto GM crops, Egypt


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].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Monsanto GM crops, Egypt
Location of conflict:Egypt
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :GMOs
Biopiracy and bio-prospection
Specific commodities:

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The 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 of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:OLAM- SICOBOIS from Egypt
Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute
International and Finance InstitutionsUS Agency for International Development (USAID)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Land Centre for Human Rights (Egypt), Bozoor Baladi (Seeds of My Country), Africa Centre for Biodiversity, Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace International

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation 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 of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination
Other Environmental impactsContamination of the Egyptian seed pool with genetically modified varieties.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsExperience 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.


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:New legislation
Development of alternatives:As 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

National Environmental Biosafety Law Draft

Egypt: National Strategy and Action Plan for Biodiversity Conservation

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

[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.

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

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

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

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

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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

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

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

Egyptian Biosafety Clearing- House

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

AFP (2008). Egypt produces first genetically modified crops harvest. Available at: Accessed 24 January 2013.


Meta information

Contributor:Patrick Burnett
Last update08/04/2014