For the research project on food production, social justice, and globalization, I will investigate the impacts of genetically modified maize crops on
South Africa’s environment and economy. I am interested in both the environmental implications of GM maize (such as decrease in biodiversity, chemical application, etc) but also the economic significance for subsistence farmers because of its potential increase in crop yields which could address hunger issues in the region. I chose maize rather than rice, corn, or soybean because it is one of the most researched GM crops in Africa, specifically southern Africa, and it is a staple in many African diets. At first I was planning on researching maize production in the entire continent of Africa but I quickly discovered that most of the relevant literature and studies were conducted in South Africa (probably because of its higher rate of development, greater number of scientific universities, and better connections to Europe) so I decided to focus only on South Africa. In researching the topic, I found much more literature on the benefits of GM crops in developing nations rather than the disadvantages (whether environmental or economic disparities); however I hope to demonstrate a balanced analysis of the issue.
Abidoye, B. O., & Mabaya, E. (2014). Adoption of genetically modified crops in South Africa:
Effects on wholesale maize prices. Agrekon, 53(1), 104–123.
This recent article provides an analysis of trends of Africa’s adoption of green biotechnology (namely GM crops) and then evaluates the economic effects of South Africa’s adoption of GM maize. The paper provides both a qualitative analysis of the nation’s adoption as well as quantitative measures to analyze the growth rate of prices of wholesale maize in South Africa. The model used is a TAR (Threshold Autoregressive) methodology that evaluates the effects of GM maize pricing. This article provides a good mix of technical information on the research question as well as several graphs that are easy to understand the take-away important points and general, historical information on GM crops in South Africa. Even though I might not understand all of the math in the paper, the analysis does provide support of my thesis in looking into the positive effects, such as reducing price risk, of GM adoption.
Adenle, A. A., Morris, E. J., & Parayil, G. (2013). Status of development, regulation and
adoption of GM agriculture in Africa: Views and positions of stakeholder groups. Food Policy,
43, 159–166. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2013.09.006
This article provides a general summary of GM agriculture in Africa but highlights studies of GM maize in South Africa. It recounts the positions of stakeholders (as defined as individuals whose livelihoods depend on the crop such as farmers or individuals who were involved in public debates on genetically modified crops such as scientists) who were interviewed as part of a large-scale study. This paper provides first-person perspectives which is unusual for a scientific publication but will be very useful to include in the final paper. The conclusions support the thesis that although GM crops may be more expensive at first (farmers have to pay 35% more for GM-maize seed) it pass off in the high yields of crop.
Biyase, L. (2010, Apr 08). Kenya freezes SA’s GM maize exports. The Star.
News article summary:
The article provides an international perspective on the harm of GM maize crops by using an example between South Africa and Kenya. It also provides examples of how Kenyan environmental groups, such as the Kenyan Biodiversity Coalition, protested the import of 40,000 of GM maize which in the end were not sold or consumed in Kenya. This is the only article I have found so far that includes some form social or environmental justice through the actions of non-governmental organizations. One of the most powerful quotes that I read in all of the readings for this research project comes from this newspaper article in a quote by Mariam Mayet. This is a reliable source as it comes from the newspaper The Star which is based out of Johannesburg. These types of first hand accounts are largely inaccessible in newspapers from outside the African continent.
Makoni, N., Mohamed-Katerere, J., & Chenje, M. (2006). Emerging Challenges. J. Mohamed-Katerere (Ed.), Africa Environment Outlook 2: Our Environment, Our Wealth (2nd ed., pp. 300–330). Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme.
This report published by the United Nations Environment Programme summarizes environmental challenges in Africa. The chapter on GMO crops in Africa will be especially useful for my paper as it provides clear examples of how GM maize in the continent is reshaping Africans’ diets and affecting the environment. It provides general information on GM crops of African interest as well as specific examples in insect-resistant studies (such as IRMA: Insect Resistant Maize for Africa). Not only does the report provide specific GM analyses for most countries in Africa, it also projects future maize production for the continent as a whole. It also predicts GM maize to have the highest growth rate in the coming years. This report provides a great deal of information on both the general issue of GM crops in Africa as well as specific studies that address my research question on maize.
Monopolizing Maize (2013, Nov 09). AllAfrica.Com Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1449846819
News article summary:
This article summarizes a report from South Africa’s Africa Center for Biosafety (ACB) which declares Monsanto’s MON810 (Bt maize) as unsafe due to its resistance to insects. A background of genetic engineering (GE), an explanation of what the Bt trait is precisely, and a historical overview of South Africa’s role in GM technology is included. The article is a nice conclusive overview that provides the key points of ACB’s report without having to read it. However, since it is a secondary source I have to keep in mind any interpretations that may be subjective.
SADC expresses concern over GM maize (2002, Oct 01). Xinhua News Agency - CEIS. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/453422261
News article summary:
Although the news agency that provided this article is based in China, the news article provides rich information as to the reception of GM maize in southern Africa. It discusses the Southern African Development Community (SADC) response and concerns over GM crops. Nations included in this group are Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. This article is very useful as it provides a perspective on the reception of GM crops outside of South Africa.
Sinha, G. (2007). GM Technology Develops World Developing. Science, 315(5809), 182–183.
This paper was published in the high impact journal Science and although it is rather short, it outlines an entertaining and engaging insight into the history of maize in Africa and the potential for GM maize. It provides a visual description of the process used to grow GM maize plants that are threatened by the African leafhopper (Cicadulina mbila). The article outlines the potential benefit of GM maize such as alleviating hunger in the region by increase crop yields and potentially boosting economic development without mentioning many of the environmental implications. However, because the scientific analysis is good and it was the first high-impact article on the potential of GM maize in Africa, it is highly valuable for the final paper. It also mentions the economic and political backing of the first GM maize crop in South Africa which was supported with very little corporate money and thus had little strings attached demonstrating a social justice component of the technology that was tailored for small-scale subsistence farmers.
Truter, J., Van Hamburg, H., & Van Den Berg, J. (2014). Comparative diversity of arthropods
on Bt maize and non-Bt maize in two different cropping systems in South Africa.
Environmental Entomology, 43(1), 197–208. doi:10.1603/EN12177
This article provides a technical but highly informative overview of the impact of GM Maize (Bt specifically) on South Africa’s biodiversity. It considers the potential negative impact on diversity and abundance of flora, fauna and ecosystem dynamics due to the introduction of GM plants such as maize. The study compared abundance and diversity of insects (specifically arthropods) on GM maize and non-GM maize at two locations. The results of the of this short-term study show that levels of abundance and diversity of arthropods did not differ between GM and non-GM maize crops. Despite the topic being very scientific, the article is short and easy to follow along.