Open Letter to the EU Parliament from a Kenyan Farmer: Leave Africa Alone


In 1885, the great European powers met in Berlin to share Africa amongst themselves, launching a dark period of colonialist exploitation.

Today, European lawmakers gather in Brussels to attempt to subjugate my continent once more, this time by pressuring us to forswear the scientific innovations that have revolutionized agriculture around the world.

This new offensive comes from the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, which has prepared a draft resolution that “urges the G8 member states not to support GMO crops in Africa.” It has received surprisingly little attention in the press and it may receive a vote as early as June 6.

As a Kenyan farmer who participates in the daily struggle to grow food in a land that doesn’t produce enough of it, I have a short message for the well-fed politicians who would consider supporting this neo-colonialist measure: “Leave Africa alone.”

Your hostility to GMOs already has set us back a generation. Please don’t take a step that could impoverish us for another generation by discouraging African governments from accepting important crop technologies that farmers in so many other places take for granted.

Here in Kenya, untold numbers of people struggle with food security, unsure about how they’ll afford their next meal. I see the evidence of it everyday. With 46 million people, a high rate of population growth, and the rapid urbanization of our arable land, our challenges probably will grow worse before they get better.

GMOs can play a positive role, letting us grow more food on less land in an economically and environmentally sustainable way. Farmers like me need access to agricultural biotechnology.

Instead of ordering Africans to abandon science, Europeans should listen to what their own scientists say: The European Commission and the World Health Organization both have vouched for the safety of GMOs. So has the National Academy of Sciences, the leading scientific advisory group in the United States, which just published a comprehensive study that endorses GMOs.

If the European Parliament wants to help Africa, it should try to spread scientific knowledge among the lawmakers and citizens of less-developed economies, enabling us to become self sufficient in the production of basic commodities, notably those that improve the lot of African farmers to assure food security.

What we don’t need are lectures from Europeans whose lifestyles look luxurious to ordinary Africans. They want us to remain agricultural primitives, stuck with technologies that were antiquated even before we entered the 21st century.

Only a handful of African countries have accepted GMOs, among them Burkina Faso, Sudan and South Africa. Yet we could see a boom in the next few years.

Kenya is GMO-ready. We have regulatory protocols in place, coordinated by the National Biosafety Authority. The first field trials of GM maize are underway and they may start soon for cotton. We still can’t cultivate, market, or import GMOs, but we’re on the verge of lifting these restrictions. Once they’re gone, my country will enjoy a new weapon in the fight against hunger.

The last thing we need is a bunch of wealthy nations frowning upon our progress without having any understanding of our predicament.

If Africa fails to take up modern farming methods, my continent will face disaster. We’ll never realize the potential of either the Green Revolution or the Gene Revolution. Farmers will use more and more herbicides and pesticides, cutting into our incomes and endangering biodiversity. The cost of crop production will rise, which means the cost of food will rise, too. More people will go hungry.

This is the bad future that the resolution now before the European Parliament asks us to embrace.

Thankfully, the resolution is non-binding. The European Parliament cannot force a policy upon any member of the G8 and at least two of its members, Canada and the United States, are sure to reject it out of hand.

But that is not the point. Africa is in the habit of looking to Europe for political leadership and economic opportunity—and whatever the European Parliament decides, its choice will send a powerful signal.

Let’s hope it makes the right one.

Gilbert arap Bor

Gilbert arap Bor

Gilbert arap Bor grows corn (maize), vegetables and dairy cows on a small-scale farm of 25 acres in Kapseret, near Eldoret, Kenya. Dr Bor is also a lecturer of marketing and management at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Eldoret campus. Gilbert received the 2011 GFN Kleckner Global Farm Leader award and volunteers as a member of the Global Farmer Network Advisory Council.

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18 thoughts on “Open Letter to the EU Parliament from a Kenyan Farmer: Leave Africa Alone

  1. It is sad enough that politics have trumped science in Europe. It is morally bankrupt for them to project that on Africa.

  2. Fantastic message from this noble farmer. I am sick and tired of scientifically ignorant Americans narcissistically battling GMOs while their bellies are full from shopping at grocery stores brimming with food 24 hours a day. It’s not about you.

  3. Thank you so much for raising the voice of reason, the voice of knowledge, the voice of humanity, in the face of those who, having everything, think they can afford not only their ignorance and fobia of science, but that of the rest of the world.

  4. Link to this draft resolution?

  5. […] Open Letter to the EU Parliament from a Kenyan Farmer: Leave Africa Alone […]

  6. Chris – here is the link to the Heubuch report – the Green MEP tabling the initiative – – I need to find a credible source, but the Ecologist is reporting that MEPs voted “overwhemingly” favourably for this measure. It has no force of law, but an insult is never powerless.

  7. Nice to hear that we really need GMO. We need a lot of cotton so as to reduce its importation.Kenya has a good land that is suitable for cotton farming.

  8. […] África han llovido críticas a esta decisión, como esta carta abierta de un granjero Kenyata a la Unión Europea. El problema es que despropósitos parecidos suceden en cada convocatoria de proyectos de ayuda al […]

  9. […] Open letter to the EU Parliament from a Kenyan farmer: Leave Africa alone, Global Farmer Network […]

  10. I am firm believer that prevailing hunger in several parts of Africa & Asia has solution only in growing food production which is not possible without adopting GM & BT crops.

  11. · May 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    GM seeds (and therefore crops), as envisioned by the Monsanto company, are planted with toxic pesticides ALREADY contained in their genetic structure. This is the DARK side of GM technology, also taken up by Bayer, Syngenta, and other chemical companies that are polluting the soils, and human bodies, of the world with their poisons and toxic pesticides.

    There is NO complaint at all against GM foods when they finally increase yields of crops, and do not leave their toxic residues in the tissue of unborn babies, AND fully grown humans. The Devil is certainly in the details here when it comes to farmers planting heirloom (NON- GMO) seeds, and then having their crops contaminated with Monsanto pollen blowovers, for which they are then SUED by Monsanto for infringing Monsanto’s patented seeds.

    If there should be a law against patenting living organisms, this is where it needs to begin. Don’t forget that we
    EAT all the pesticides and GM modified ‘insect killing crops’ that constitute modern GM agrotech.

    No one is saying that the OCA movement, or organization is justified in their anti-science stand. But when you are offered the choice of heirloom crops, or GM pesticide laden crops, WHICH does a NORMAL person choose???

    The battle against the chemical GM giants will continue, and far beyond one Kenyan farmer’s letter to the EU.
    Since the FDA in the USA has been grossly negligent in its concern for the public health, why should the African nations be as ecologically aware when their populations are at the edge of starvation????

    • Avatar photo
      · May 15, 2017 at 8:28 pm

      There is a well-known saying that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Unfortunately, there are quite a few cases of opinion, or even misinformation, being portrayed as facts in your post. Given the tone of the writing, it’s obvious your mind is made up at the moment, and fruitless to go through the points. However, encouragement is given to take your passion for the topics and conduct further investigation that will perhaps expand your view.

  12. · May 16, 2017 at 4:25 am

    @GFN. . . .You have challenged my “opinions” so I give it back to you- REFUTE the opinions with your
    ‘supposed’ facts and I will stand down.

    My FACTS are universal knowledge –

    FACT – Monsanto sells sterile GMO seeds that are altered genetically to kill insects when they bite the leaves, fruit,
    which are then harvested for human consumption.
    FACT – Monsanto GM crops have cross pollinated with heirloom-seeded crops, thereby contaminating tens of
    thousands of acres of crops, which Hungarian farmers burned and destroyed. American farmers are in
    litigation now over the same conditions against Monsanto.

    FACT – Glysophate (Roundup principal ingredient) is declared a carcinogenic agent by the state of California

    FACT – OBAMA secretly signs the Monsanto Protection Act, making t his EVIL corporation immune from any
    litigation or actions against it concerning GMO’s, pesticides, Roundup,

    FACT – The neonicotinoids used in Monsanto products is directly attributed to the massive bee colony in the US.

    FACT – The Food and Drug Administration has consistently many more decisions in favor of corporate benefits
    than its primary mission to protect and serve the public health/

    FACT- Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, et al, are universally recognized as producing the science and reports that
    are favorable to their products, and suppressing those reports that are not favorable.

    These FACTS are not MY facts but publicly accepted facts. I suggest you do the same concerning ‘investigation’ and ‘research’ concerning FACTS – established truths that I had nothing to do with, did not influence, constrain or otherwise persuade to be anything other than ESTABLISHED TRUTH.

    i challenge you to counter each of the facts mentioned above, with your own ‘facts’ if such there be.

  13. · May 26, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    @SEPPI. . . . .thank you for the link, but it has little, if anything, to do with the FACTS presented here. I am keenly aware of the social media network and all of the alternative sources of information available today.

    Nevertheless, established facts concerning toxic chemicals, GMO’s used in processed food, pesticide poisoning that is now rampant in the world – these issues need to be openly discussed against the mega-corporations who could care less about your opinions and FACTS concerning their ongoing poisoning of the earth’s environment, and finally your very own body, as the final result.

    I am ‘genetically literate’ and coincidentally, the woman on the link you referred me to, is EXACTLY of the same mind as me. It seems your ‘you may wish to start ‘ suggestion is about five years too late.

    You ‘may wish to start’ with. . . . .following your very own advice to others.

  14. […] Juni veröffentlichte die Plattform Global Farmer Network einen Offenen Brief an das Europäische Parlament von einem Bauern aus Kenia. Der Brief wurde im Vorfeld einer Parlamentsentscheidung geschrieben. Es ging Gilbert Arap Bor […]