Cut-throat Moves to Legitimize Cutting-edge Technology
The paramount friction between science and nature resumed afresh in Ethiopia, following the government’s commercialization of GMO varieties through selected farmers and the appreciation report released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February, 2020. Following the amendment of Ethiopia’s strict biosafety laws in 2015, half a dozen farmers in Gambela and Benishangul regions cultivated Bt cotton in 2019 for the first time. The move is soon to be followed by GMO maize and Enset. Government officials and proponents of the technology argue that GMO is the silver bullet to do away with food insecurity. Nonetheless, growing anti-GMO groups are concerned over what they call ‘the irrationality’ behind the governmental rush for GMO. The poor productivity of the first GMO farms is also a major setback for proponents of the latest GMO manoeuvring around Ethiopia’s millennia old agriculture. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale investigates the debates to offer this report.
When humans domesticated certain plants and animals 12,000 years ago, the process followed the natural course of selection. In fact, it was agriculture that domesticated humans as it transformed wandering human foragers into stable-families settled around their farms.
However, agriculture and humans are currently being domesticated by few companies with the mastery of manipulating nature and re-engineering agriculture. Multinational Companies specialized in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) evolved to producing plants and animals specific to human needs, using genome-editing.
Ethiopia, the cradle of mankind and among early agricultural communities, is theoretically and morally against GMO but practically already in the business. This is against Ethiopia’s ‘organic’ brand and pan-Africanist anti-GMO vanguard role. For an agricultural sector that is alien to the latest combiners, GMOs mark outer space.
Five large scale cotton producers officially sowed 1,400 KG of GMO cotton for the first time on 358 hectares of land in Gambella regional state in 2019, announced Samson Asefa, Cotton Development Director at Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute (ETIDI). Testing of GMO maize and Enset (false banana) is also underway in confined areas, according to TadesseDaba (PhD), Biotechnology Director at Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).
GMO cotton varieties dubbed JKCH-1050 and JKCH-1947 were imported from India. Tadesse says close to ten cotton farmers imported the seeds but some failed to sow it. For the 2020 cultivation season, farmers are less interested and only 3ql (300KG) Bt cotton is ordered to be cultivated on 120 hectares in Gambella. Pest resistant GMO seeds are encoded with Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt), a bacteria scientists identified in 1999, after it reportedly killed butterfly larvae.
Samson says the Ethiopian Cotton Producers, Exporters and Ginners Association (ECPGEA) asked for GMOs. “Existing cotton varieties are pest-preys. Over 80Pct of global cotton farming is Bt cotton. It is useful for Ethiopia. The GMO farms in Ethiopia are overseen by a task force formed from EIAR, EFCCC and led by ETIDI,” stated Samson. He further indicated that the productivity of Bt cotton was below expectation during the first harvest, although it proved to be better than the productivity of domestic varieties during testing in confined areas. “Productivity and the income of farmers are inversely proportional. Bt cotton replaced pesticide expenses,” Samson added.
“Productivity of the first Bt cotton harvest was dismaying despite high expectations,” stated Tadesse. He added: “increasing productivity is not the main purpose of the Bt cotton. Resisting ball worms, which highly affect Ethiopian cotton cultivation, and reducing the large amount of chemicals we deployed also increases productivity indirectly.”
Discouraged by the first impression, very few cotton farmers ordered Bt cotton for the 2020 cultivation season. Btcotton seed is imported at USD28 (over ETB900) per kilogram. 2.5 kilograms of Bt cotton is used per hectare, which is USD70 per hectare. The seed, however, has other chemical accessories supplied by the same company. Therefore, the price per hectare is even higher. The current price of organic cotton seed in Ethiopia is ETB45 per kilogram, 21 times lower than that of the new GMO seed. However, cotton farmers indicate, it takes up to 15-kilograms of the old seed to sow a hectare of land.
“The first Bt cotton farmers are unhappy with the low productivity. It did not effectively resist the ball warm, which was rampant through 2019. Its productivity is the same as existing varieties,” said a cotton farmer and official at Cotton Producer’s Association. “Some cotton farmers smuggled in Bt cotton seed earlier from Sudan and tried it on small scale,” said the insider.
Ethiopia’s annual cotton demand stands at 120,000 tons; only half of that amount is produced locally due to pest related issues.
Samson argues GMO cotton will not affect Ethiopia’s export. “Even international buyers like H&M, PVH and other brands support GM cotton. International buyers only require certification for sustainable production which does not affect the environment, society and use child labor. Conventional organic varieties fetch more export revenue but GMO also has demand. China and India also order GMO products. We can export to them. We can export organic cotton for Europe and GMO to other markets, depending on the orders.”
Samson noted the fact that over 70Pct of cotton farming in Ethiopia is owned by commercial farmers makes Bt cotton feasible in the country. “The rest of cotton farming is constituted by large plain cotton farms that can cultivate Bt cotton and small holders for whom Bt cotton is not recommended. Bt cotton needs mechanization and better farm management. Bt cotton is profitable for the 70Pct but orders determine the level of profitability. The value chain of GMO cotton production in Ethiopia is controlled in such a way that it will not spill over to indigenous varieties or the consumption value chain. Fresh cotton seed is usually fed to milk cow and also used for edible oil. EFCCC prepared documents to prevent this,” explained Samson. Under such conditions, ETIDI plans to expand Bt cotton to commercial farmers in SNNP regional state.
The GMO Debate in Ethiopia
Ethiopia, through TewoldebirhanGebregziabher (PhD) pressed the world to adopt the Cartagena and Nagoya protocols. He created an anti-GMO Africa in the spirit of the continuation of pan-Africanism. When Western scholars argued ‘you are in the way of Africans’ right to food,’ Tewoldebirhan answered, ‘Africans die of hunger not because there is no food in Africa, but because they have no money.’ His systemic demotion due to pressures and age was followed by Ethiopia adopting GMO in 2015.
The controversial ‘Proclamation to Amend the Biosafety Proclamation’ was presented to the Ethiopian parliament in October 2014 and ratified after eight months in May, 2015. The approval process was even longer, stated FantahunMengistu (PhD), Director of EIAR. At the time, EIAR just finalized construction of its plant, livestock, and microbial biotech lab facility it started in 2009/10 in Holeta. It also built open fenced and isolated farms for contained GMO testing mainly in Werer, Afar regional state. The main argument behind the amendment was that GMOs provide high productivity than existing varieties.
Most stakeholders have no information Ethiopia released GMO for commercial open farming. The silence on GMO gave way to strong confrontations in Ethiopia after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a controversial report on February 05, 2020, in which it appreciated Ethiopia for adopting GMO cotton, Enset and maize successfully. The report, among other details, states: “the Ethiopian government, from the PM office down, has publicly showed their interests in commercializing agricultural biotechnology as a tool to achieve food security in the country.” The report, which appreciates Ethiopia is on the right track now, blames the Ethiopian government for leading the anti-GMO movement in Africa for a decade before 2015. The USDA report described pre-2015 Ethiopia as the ‘vanguard of the anti-GMO movement in Africa by working with the African Union and drafting the restrictive African Model law.’
Environmental groups and African countries hailed Ethiopian leadership as farsighted action for sustainability. Ethiopia’s approval of GMO is ‘breakaway’ from the ‘African consensus’ on the ban against it. Western organizations hinted Ethiopia’s position is vital to endorse GMO through the AU and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Ethiopia’s previous position against GMO was applauded by Africans because it substantiated Africa’s environmental issue, protection for African small scale farmers and protection for Ethiopia’s unique crop diversity form GMO contamination and genetic erosion.
With some 85,000 seed samples of over 100 species already stored in gene banks, Ethiopia has the biggest biodiversity and gene bank in Africa. The samples include 5,644 coffee conservations. Countries like USA and Germany, who helped in the establishment of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) since 1976, also benefited from the gene bank.
Multinational GMO providers are privileged under the World Trade Organization (WTO), to which Ethiopia is not a member. GMO Seeds and agricultural inputs are controlled under large global markets and international rules of patents. Farmers are not allowed to re-use patented GMO seeds saved from their harvest and must instead buy seeds from the companies every planting season. The Multinationals sue farmers if they find genes from their patented GMO seeds in farmers’ indigenous crop fields. This is against the ‘polluter pays principle’, where companies whose GMOs contaminate farmers’ fields are supposed to compensate farmers.
Ethiopia switched from GMO prohibiting country to promoter in ten years. The 2009 biosafety proclamation totally bans the owning, moving and use of GMOs with 15 years penalty for trespassing even for research purposes. The amended 2015 proclamation allows GMOs. A national committee comprising of the Ministries of Agriculture (MoA), Science and Technology (MoST), Industry, EFCCC, EBTI and EIAR was formed to oversee the implementation of GMOs. A task force comprising of people from ETIDI, EIAR, regional states and cotton and maize producer’s association was also formed.
The arguments of the anti and pro GMO blocks in Ethiopia can be divided into procedural and substantial. Anti-GMO groups argue that the procedure the government followed to adopt GMOs is kept behind the public eye. Content-wise, they argue GMOs have numerous substances risky for human and environment, besides enslaving farmers. GMO promoters, mainly government institutions in science and agriculture, foreign organizations and few companies, paint GMOs as sent from heaven.
The Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) is the only public institution against GMOs. In November 2016, officials from the Ethiopian parliament, EIAR, EBTi and others visited GMO farms in India and attested their GMO appreciation. The tour was sponsored and coordinated by USAID and Monsanto, GMO producing and selling US multinational. The team was led by Zekarias Erkola, State Minister of Cabinet Affairs in the PM Office, and Kassahun Tesfaye, then Biotechnology Director at EIAR and currently Director of EBTi. The Ethiopian Bio Technology Institute (EBTI) promotes GMO has no risk.
Million Belay (PhD), Coordinator at Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), argues Western companies are using three systemic strategies to endorse GMO into Africa. “They use African Officials to endorse GMOs and shift public institutions from anti-GMO to pro-GMO. They use Western donor agencies to push for GMO adoption in Africa. Thirdly, they use African experts who studied in Western universities through scholarships,” he explained.
Million Belay noted that productivity might increase at first. In the long run, however, it can even be lower than conventional varieties. The South African government rejected an application from Monsanto on the basis that it is not that productive. Productivity should not kill biodiversity and the diversity in knowledge. We need diversity for our resilience.” Million won the 2008 National Green Hero Award in Ethiopia in 2008, and was nominated for the International Forest Hero Award three years later. He assessed: “the three strategies are well implemented in Ethiopia.”
For Million, Ethiopia’s adoption of GMOs is a result of years of advocacy than deterioration of food security. “Due to the weakened resistance on GMOs in Ethiopia, mainly due to the ill-effects of the infamous Charities law that prohibited us to campaign and have meetings with the parliament and government bodies as we used to do, the GMO promoters had their field day. They were very strong a time when we were weakened. The creation of the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has contributed hugely to that. ATA, a powerful and hugely funded institution in Ethiopia, purposely worked to change the biosafety proclamation in Ethiopia. To my knowledge, there was no public involvement in the approvals of the release of Bt Cotton as stipulated in the Nagoya protocol and in our biosafety proclamation,” said Million.
Kassahun complemented this line of thought by remarking: “the amendment states Ethiopia is determined to drive its economic growth through science and technology.”
For Gebremedhin Bireda, Head of Ethiopian Consumers Association (ECA) and Political Science and International Relations (PSIR) lecturer at the Addis Ababa University, the GMO debacle is far from over. The ECA was first licensed in 2000 but its license was revoked in 2009 when the government introduced the infamous proclamation that totally crippled civil societies. The ECA played a crucial role in drafting Ethiopia’s first Consumer Protection Proclamation and establishing the Trade Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (TCPA), which replaced the association. The ECA is currently re-registering.
“Ethiopia signed the 1983 UN Consumer Rights but even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said ‘we do not know it.’ Trade, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (TCPA) remained inactive because whenever its officials try to enforce consumer laws, they are attacked by powerful business people and greedy officials. TCPA is slightly better only in controlling merger and acquisition. Consumer protection requires extra devotion and agile ability in multidiscipline. However, TCPA operates eight hours a day, like any government institution. For instance, contraband face mask is currently infiltrating the market, but TCPA is silent,” said Gebremedhin.
GMO and e-commerce are the two growing consumer threats, according to Gebremedhin. “The Ethiopian government does not even understand the dynamism in production and service modes, hiking consumer disadvantages. For instance, digital fraud is on the rise,” he remarked. After the revocation of ECA’s license, its members worked to defend consumer rights individually until they were involved in a total fallout with the Ethiopian government on the issue of GMOs.
When EIAR, Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), EFCCC and the parliament were preparing the 2015 biosafety proclamation, ECA members argued strongly. The government promised to include their inputs. They prepared the ‘liability and redress’ mechanism, which assigns responsibility for any GMO damage based on the Nagoya protocol. Finally, the parliament approved it under ‘part six’ of the final draft proclamation. However, when the 2015 amended biosafety proclamation was published, that part was cut out. The proclamation allows GMO without assigning responsibility to anyone in case of any damage on consumers, farmers or the environment. ECA’s contribution was included in the 2009 biosafety proclamation but not in the 2015 amended proclamation.
The Nagoya Protocol assigns responsibility for any damages on institutions that promote GMO use. In the Ethiopian context, those institutions would be EIAR, EBTI and EFCCC. By cutting the section dealing with liability and redress, the institutions have totally absolved themselves of any responsibilities. In addition, the multinational suppliers of GMOs would not be held to any responsibility as the ‘advance informed agreement’ needed has not been signed between the Ethiopian government and the suppliers.
There are two international GMO protocols, Cartagena and Nagoya. Cartagena is about usage while Nagoya is about liability and redress. Ethiopia signed both but only included Cartagena in its latest proclamation.
“Ethiopia’s GMO approval was totally in the interest of a few officials who wanted to benefit from the GMO business. Finally, we refused to work with any government body after the 2015 proclamation was ratified behind the scene. Recently, USDA appreciated Ethiopia’s GMO progress. GMO is a cross breed between plants, animals and microbials. GMO is primarily pushed by Ethiopian experts educated abroad with GMO company scholarship funds. They are brainwashed that GMO is modernism. Nature is the grand technology. Amid all this intrigue, the Ministry of Agriculture reports Ethiopia’s agriculture is growing double digit with indigenous varieties.”
“South Africa has been growing GM crops for over 20 years but it is still not food secure. Bt cotton is failing in India. There is growing and huge resistance against GMOs in the US and in Latin America. There is a growing evidence and a court rule that Roundup, a chemical used by farmers with their GMO crops, has caused cancer and a host of other diseases. Science is politics. But Africa is not doing it to get a political leverage. We will not get power or money by opposing GMOs. We might have gotten both, had we supported it,” stated Million in his email response to EBR.
“Ethiopia can achieve top productivity by improving soil, water conservation and if breeders and farmers work together. Agro ecological techniques can be developed to fight pests. The science and practice is there but this will not bring money to companies or GMO promoters. They want to use Ethiopia, the country hosting the AU, as a launching pad to convince other countries to accept GMOs,” added Million.
Gebremedhin argues GMO should not be promoted by public institutions even if it is useful. “The public was never consulted in the process, from changing the law to farming GMO on open farms. Nobody tells the public for what purpose GMO is being used, where it is growing and how it is transported, and who assumes accountability for any damage. We might already be consuming GMO, because the cotton seed is usually fed for milk cows and used even to produce edible oil. Today, they have started with Enset, maize and cotton; tomorrow, they will launch GMO Teff, coffee and other unique Ethiopian commodities. They almost finalized the launch of GMO Teff developed by Ethiopian biotechnologists. It was suspended because of strong opposition from our association. They must not be allowed to destroy natural varieties, just because it is technically possible.”
Gebremedhin argues GMO is not just a business. “Ethiopia is committing suicide. Powerful people like Bill Gates funded USD23 million for Bt maize and cotton research and development in sub-Saharan Africa. There is no free lunch. Western organizations, such as UNIDO, are pushing even the AU to promote GMOs in Africa. But many African countries are rejecting GMO. Uganda’s government denounced GMO. Burkina Faso was praised for GMO success at first, but it was devastated by GMO damage later. Only Ethiopia has accepted GMO while other countries are highly suspicious. This is voluntary colonialism. It is not about democracy.”
Gebremedhin says the campaign to get GMOs adopted in Africa is similar to the historic scramble for Africa. “GMO does not increase productivity, as they advertise. We have more than enough evidence to suggest GMOs risk indigenous biodiversity, cause gene flaws, and create super weeds and carcinogenic. Consumers in developed countries stopped consuming GMO. Ethiopia is not telling the public which product is GMO and which is not. No law mandates producers or importers to print detail information on packages. Ethiopia can grow with indigenous agriculture. Government is availing 80Pct loan for FDI but it does not finance indigenous farmers. Ethiopia ratified the GMO proclamation after purposefully weakening the TCPA and demoting strong voices like Tewoldebirhan Gebreegziabher (PhD). Civil societies were annihilated systemically. They have kept GMO secret from the attention of the academies, civil society and the public, especially since 2016. No GMO critic enters the National Seed Advisory Council,” explained Gebremedhin.
Gebremedhin says Ethiopia must explore its immense potential first. “Ethiopia’s biodiversity is enough for the world. Many developed countries like USA, German, Holland and others took various crop genes from Ethiopia and improved their seed systems. Even if GMO is confirmed useful, the process must be open for public debate. But Ethiopia has no legitimate reason to rush GMOs. This is obviously the business of few companies like Monsanto and a result of the push from the US government through its organizations.”
Shimelis, on the other hand, argues that the positive impact of GMOs is rarely told to the public and policy makers for optimal decision making. “The use of harmful” intensive farming practices was one of the concerns of the Green Revolution strategy in India. Accordingly, the strategy was met with severe criticism due to the substantial amount of irrigation water (both underground and surface water) it uses. It overused fertilizers and pesticides, polluting the environment and has negative impact on diet and nutritional diversity due to the crowding out effect of cereal production, i.e., wheat and rice on the production of pulses and vegetables. That means, intensification strategy through conventional practices have also many undesirable consequences leading to high risks on nutritional diversity and the health of the environment. Many countries ban GMO cultivation but the products are available in their markets,” Shimeles stated in his email response to EBR.
Shimelis argues GMO has some major advantages like higher productivity per small land and ability to resist crop stress conditions like drought, pests, diseases, weeds. “Conventional breeding practices provide products that are well below the required level of productivity needed to resolve the problems of productivity and vulnerability to disease. As a result, Ethiopia spends a substantial amount of its precious foreign currency on the import of foods. Some Ethiopians strongly resist import of GMO seeds citing health concerns but, according to a recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ethiopia currently imports processed GMO foods like Soya bean and edible oil from corn and breakfast meals made from genetically modified ingredients. The report highlighted Ethiopia is also importing GMO cotton from India and USA. Ethiopia cannot address growing population and domestic industrial demand by conventional agriculture,” concludes Shimeles.
Gebremedhin says Monsanto generates billions of tax for America by milking poor farmers. “For this to happen, Ethiopian farmers must drop their own seeds and buy expensive but non-productive GMO seeds. America uses its policies and organizations to expand GMO agricultural space in emerging markets like Ethiopia. Their NGOs advocate GMO. The US Embassy harassed and threatened me for denouncing GMO during the drafting of the 2015 proclamation. GMO is adopted in countries where foreign hands are long. Ethiopia adopted GMO at such a point. I remember the late PM Meles remarking ‘we do not work to satisfy a few foreign companies’, when asked about GMOs, further noting that serving their interest in not included in both Growth and Transformation Plans (GTPs) – the five year national plan. Those companies put human genes in consumable plants, which is ethically wrong. This is utter disregard for religion and the public. GMO is the reason behind many health issues in developed countries, including obesity and cancer.”
Shimelis begs to differ. He pointed out: “giant seed corporations are not the only source of GMO. Golden Rice (GMO) was released through the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), member of CGIAR research centers, to eradicate malnutrition and poverty in East Asia. Similarly, the USDA report indicated that Ethiopian researchers and EIAR are collaborating with the Abuja based African branch of the CGIAR, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), to produce GMO Enset resistant to bacteria wilt. The report further highlighted this indigenous plant saves millions of Ethiopian households. In general, our research institutes (breeding programs) are usually sourcing advanced breeding materials from CGIAR centers and our works are mainly adaptability trials.” However, Shimelis conceded that these international agricultural research organizations have link with giant agribusiness companies.
The bottom line for Gebremedhin is that the government has no right to determine on behalf of the consumer and the farmer. “The public was not given the chance to decide. The government is walking shady to please American companies. They might succeed in manipulating the law. We will expose the conspiracies and stop Ethiopians from using any GMO product. In developed markets, there are descriptions on GMO products and production areas. Ethiopia is undertaking everything in secret. The probability we are consuming GMO without knowing about it is high. Western countries are banning GMO because it causes cancer, obesity, and even genetic flaws. The reason behind GMO is Western conspiracies like depopulation and the weaponization of agriculture,” underscored Gebremedhin.
Many scholars do not expect GMO to be successful in Ethiopia as over 96Pct of the country’s agriculture is carried out by small-scale farmers. The 1970s Green Revolution, a mass production movement that succeeded in exponentially increasing agricultural productivity in Latin America and Asian countries, was not spearheaded by GMO. The spread of fall army warm, particularly since 2017, is the main logic behind increasing GMO promotion in Africa. Various researches confirm that GMO, especially seeds encoded with Bt bacteria, can fight off pests. However, GMO provides no guarantee of increasing productivity because the GMO can be any local variety treated with plant, animal or microbial genes.
According to ‘Risks and Opportunities of GM Crops’, a 2018 study by Andrea Carzolietal, the world must be able to produce higher in smaller land space under the high anticipation of world population growth. Cutting-edge technologies in genetic engineering and GMO are the way out. The paper emphasizes polarizations of safety concerns have undermined GMO potential.
“Ethiopia’s population is growing very fast and climate change is affecting agriculture. Consumption and industrial demands are growing. Trying GMO is better than doing nothing. Instead of fully adopting GMO for all crops, checking it case by case is preferred. Ethiopia can benchmark GMO best practices, like India did. Credit is important for resource-constrained farm households to use the available new innovations. Whatever the technology (conventional or GMO), it requires an upfront investment for farmers,” stressed Shimelis.
“Some hesitate to acknowledge the fact that science is inseparable with politics. People engage in scientific research to help society; hence, the political aspects. For instance, the research on climate change and the reduction of emissions is highly linked to politics. There are also governmental motives to achieve something with the help of emerging technologies. Henry Kissinger (a top and seasoned US diplomat) once said “who controls food, controls the people.” Governments allocate substantial amount of resources for research on new innovations. As a result, the issue is linked to government policies and politics. That means government funding and policies imply the direction of future scientific research,” added Shimelis.
Africa needs a strong institutional platform that can independently research and pass decisions on GMO, emulating the European Commission. Africa’s biodiversity has tremendous similarities; however, African states make isolated and different GMO decisions. If a country allows GMO, it would likely have strong impact on the biodiversity of its neighbors, since cross border trade and movement of seeds and crop is high in Africa. For instance, GM cotton seeds entered Ethiopia from Sudan, years before Ethiopia officially accepted it. Africa must decide together whether it should allow GMO or not. This can also help to invest in state of the art regional GMO facilities, if they decide to adopt it, than trying GMO bare hands at piecemeal national levels.
Gebremedhin recommends Ethiopia must prioritize its national interest first, when accepting any Western science, policy, culture or aid. “Our community must protect its food sovereignty. Every community has the right to decide what to produce, when and where. We lost the patent to teff and we do not want to lose the varieties we are left with for GMO. GMO promoters consider tissue culture as backward science and they want us to use genome editing. They must come forth to open public debate and convince us. Let the public decide. Anybody who controls your food systems controls you. The government must step back from what it is currently doing on GMO, and think again,” he urged.
Million recommends Ethiopia invest in its own agriculture, soil and water conservation, improve the productivity of the seeds in the hands of farmers through participatory selection breeding and stop asking the wrong questions. “We can produce nutritious and healthy food without negatively impacting the environment and eat culturally appropriate food. Food security is about availability, access, usefulness and stability of food; GMO fulfils none of these. GMO is politics and power. It is the control of our stomach, our land and our life. The ultimate GMO agenda is to make us a market for GMO products. Even if Ethiopia develops the biotechnological capacity, nobody should lead the country into a path that we cannot extricate ourselves from. This is the tyranny of technology. You can see it with computers and mobile phones. Once you go that direction, you feel helpless and useless without them. This is not a food security agenda. We can be food secure with what we have. We need science and we have to work with our farmers to enhance productivity. We have to have strict biosafety laws. We need to ensure public participation in any decision making process. We need to have national debate on this issue now. We need to put a moratorium to any GMO technology for at least five years until the country has enough skill, institutional capacity and knowledge to manage GMOs,” Million concludes.