Back in 2012, the Ministry of Agriculture in Egypt made the bold statement that no Genetically Modified (GM) crops were to be planted in Egypt. Although this may have been a relief to various campaigners and the average Egyptian concerned about their food, it now emerges that things are not as straight forward as they first appeared. According to Greenpeace a new report has found that Egypt is actually Africa’s third largest country to commercialise a GM crop. So where does that leave Egyptians?
“This is a situation of grave concern, our government is assuring us that they are taking precautions to protect the Egyptian people, environment, and economy, and according to this report what was promised was not fulfilled,” says Ahmed El Droubi, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, released its annual Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops report and found that Egypt planted 1,000 hectares of GM maize in 2012.
However, the Minister of Agriculture announced that the only licensed shipment of a GM crop to enter Egypt in 2012, a 40 ton shipment of MON 810 of GM maize, was to be withheld and executed by his Ministry.
Something isn’t adding up and Greenpeace say they want answers. They want to know why there are inconsistencies in the findings of the report and statements made by Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture.
“The Egyptian people are entitled to know what is planted on our land and what we are eating!,” added Ahmed El Droubi . “The risks of GMOs and the threats they pose are unquestionable, this already banned activity by no means should continue. We demand the Egyptian government puts in place clear biosafety laws banning GMOs.”
The recent GM development comes at a particularly precarious time in Egypt as food poverty is on the rise. According to a recent government survey, 86% of Egyptians say that their income is insufficient to cover their monthly food, clothes and shelter bill. This was a rise from 74% in 2011. Households are adopting radical strategies to cope with the widening gap which include cutting out meals or reducing the portion sizes.
In the past, campaigners of Bozoor Balady have also worked hard to promote the importance of local seed diversity and the value of native seeds and crops.
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Photo of young man selling vegetables in Aswan via ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com