B urkina Faso has begun to phase out the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, bringing to an end seven years of GM cotton production. In 2008, Burkina Faso became one of the first countries to adopt Bt cotton, a product engineered by Monsanto to kill-off the bollworm pest. In theory, this allowed cotton producers to use fewer pesticides and focus on crop cultivation. Burkinabe farmers and companies found GM did increase cotton yields, however, the quality of lint went into decline. Greater supply and lower quality drove down prices and undercut profits, prompting cotton companies to phase out the GM seeds.
In 2003, Burkina Faso became one of the first African countries to field trials of Bt cotton. The Bt gene was cleared and introduced onto the market in 2008. This was major news as cotton production is seen as a key to rural development.
Already one of Africa’s biggest cotton producers, Burkina Faso rapidly became one of the biggest GM producers. By 2014, Bt cotton was being cultivated by 140,000 Burkinabe farmers. Production expanded as prices began to fall.
Despite falling prices, the average Bt cotton farming family was able to increase its profits by 50% more than with non-GM cotton. Yet this was not the case for cotton companies, which bore the cost of the seeds.
The cotton companies plan to gradually phase out the GM seeds from 53% in 2015/16 to 30% in 2016/17 to return to non-GM cotton by 2017/18. These same companies are demanding $280 million in compensation from Monsanto for the losses incurred.
African Arguments covers Burkina Faso’s abandonment of GM crops.
The Ecologist reports on the Burkinabe decision to phase out GM.
Al Jazeera, with additional content from The World Weekly, looks at sustainable farming in Burkina Faso.