miércoles, mayo 20, 2009


The Oakland Institute Reporter

Tell Congress Not to Force GE Crops on Other Countries

An Action Alert from Center for Food Safety (www.centerforfoodsafety.org)

A Note from the Oakland Institute

The 2008 food crisis and growing hunger, which threatens nearly one billion people worldwide, has been framed as a crisis of demand and supply. Thus the solutions offered primarily focus on boosting agricultural production through technological solutions like genetic engineering (GE).

A big player promoting GE as the panacea to world hunger is the United States. During the G-8 Summit, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack warned that failure to take immediate steps to reduce hunger will cause fresh social unrest. He thus urged the G8 to back the use of science in agriculture, including genetically modified organisms, to boost productivity. (Financial Times, 2009) On his return from Italy, much to the delight of biotech companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto, he pledged to bring a "more comprehensive and integrated" approach to promoting agricultural biotech overseas. (Des Moines Register, 2009).

Similarly in a joint essay, former Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, Catherine Bertini, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, hailed plans for a new Green Revolution that includes biotechnology, as holding "great promise." They advocated for prioritizing food and agriculture in the U.S. foreign aid. Recognizing that their plans might generate resistance, the authors wrote, "Although there is the potential for conflict over a hunger initiative on the issue of introducing more GM crops, this conflict is more likely to be with Europeans than with Africans or Asians, both of whom are increasingly inclined to accept the technology." (Bertini & Glickman, 2009)

This thinking, that developing countries can be arm twisted into accepting GE crops, is reflected in a new multi-billion dollar U.S. aid bill. Global Food Security Act (SB 384), also known as the Lugar-Casey Act, revises the 1961 Federal Assistance Act to direct more money towards GE research as part of U.S. foreign aid programs. (PANNA, 2009) The bill is now before the Senate after passing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2009 on the basis of hastily conducted, industry-friendly research that was funded by the Gates Foundation. A similar bill is expected soon in the House of Representatives.

A recent report from the Oakland Institute, Voices from Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa, clearly outlines African resistance to plans for a technological agricultural revolution in Africa, particularly the misguided philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation's Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and presents African solutions rooted in first-hand knowledge of what Africans need. To learn more, download a copy of the report at www.oaklandinstitute.org.

Also visit and join today, Voices From Africa at www.oaklandinstitute.org/voicesfromafrica, a new online clearinghouse to share information on and promote alternatives to the New Green Revolution in Africa.

It is time that we demand the U.S. government stops bullying other countries and that they hav policy space to develop agriculture as they deem fit for their environment, farmers, and national needs.

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):

Tell Congress Not to Force GE Crops on Other Countries

An Action Alert from Center for Food Safety (www.centerforfoodsafety.org)

An effort to fight global poverty and hunger may become a Trojan horse to force genetically engineered crops on countries and farmers that do not want them. In the Senate, Senators Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the Global Food Security Act, which increases funding for agricultural research in the developing world, and a companion bill in the House of Representatives is expected to be introduced soon. While the bill recognizes the desperate need to increase funding for agricultural development and food security, it also requires that foreign agricultural development aid include investment in genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Most developing countries, especially in Africa, do not allow genetically engineered crops to be commercially grown, but that's changing with international pressure. Biotech companies have mounted a misinformation campaign to sell themselves and their products as "humanitarian." But, genetically engineered crops are not a solution to world hunger. To date, not a single GE crop released for commercial growing has increased yield potential or elevated nutritional levels. In reality, fully 85% of all GE crops globally are engineered to survive spraying with chemical weedkillers. These chemical-dependent GE crops have sharply increased overall use of pesticides and are best-suited to large growers seeking to reduce labor needs for weed control, not poor farmers anxious to produce more to feed their families.

A recent report by the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth found that agricultural biotechnology feeds the profits of biotech companies - not the poor. The report's findings support the United Nations' assessment of world agriculture released in a report in 2008, which concluded that GE crops have little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world, and instead recommended low-cost, low-input agroecological farming methods.

The solutions for food security through agricultural development lie in promoting agroecological practices that not only increase agricultural productivity, but are affordable and accessible to small-scale developing world farmers. As Ben Burkett, an African American farmer from Mississippi and President of the National Family Farm Coalition who has visited Africa many times, said in a recent article, "More expensive genetically modified seeds, pesticides and chemical-intensive practices won't help the hungry and will only allow more profits and control for seed companies like Monsanto and Syngenta."

Food aid and development assistance should never be pre-conditioned on accepting unwanted and ineffective genetically engineered crops. Tell Congress to keep genetic engineering out of any food aid and agricultural research legislation.

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):

Your Senators

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Keep genetic engineering out of food aid and agricultural research legislation

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

I urge you to oppose any food aid or agricultural development aid legislation that promotes genetic engineering, or that mandates its development or use, such as the Global Food Security Act of 2009 (S. 384), Section 202, subsection number 4. This provision would require that agricultural research include "research on biotechnological advances, including genetically modified technology."

The food crisis makes clear how vital it is that we increase our foreign assistance funding to help the world's poor - primarily small farmers - become more productive and capable of feeding their families and communities. However, as Congress examines the ways to do so, genetically modified (GM) crops should not be mandated as part of that funding. Thus far, GM crops have failed to offer food security or agricultural development assistance in developing countries throughout the world. Currently 85% of all GM crops are engineered for pesticide tolerance. These chemical-dependent crops have sharply increased overall use of pesticides and are best-suited to large growers seeking to reduce labor needs for weed control, not poor farmers striving to produce more to feed their families. In addition, GM seeds are two to four-fold more expensive than conventional seeds, well beyond the means of many developing country farmers. Not a single GM crop commercially available offe rs nutritional benefits, enhanced yield potential, drought-tolerance, or other attractive sounding traits often touted in the media. Thus, it is not surprising that many developing countries do not allow the commercial growing of GM crops, particularly in Africa, where only two countries allow them.

Fortunately, much more effective and affordable solutions already exist - only they desperately require additional funding to spread their benefits to more farmers. In fact, a comprehensive assessment sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank concluded in 2008 that while such agroecological techniques hold tremendous promise, GM crops have little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world.

Farmers and governments in the developing world have the right to make their own choices about GM crops. Food aid and development assistance should never be pre-conditioned on acceptance of unwanted, expensive, and ineffective technology. Instead, our legislative efforts to increase food security and agricultural development assistance should be based on the proven agroecological methods already being promoted by the international community and the United Nations.

Please oppose Section 202, subsection number 4 of the Global Food Security Act (S. 384) which would force genetically engineered crops on the developing world.



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