GM Supporters and Foes Both Converge in Guadalajara
BY CARMELO RUIZ-MARRERO
In the first week of March the Mexican city of Guadalajara hosted the FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) Conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries. The conference was billed as a purely technical event, an objective and neutral affair, for the purpose of evaluating technological options for agriculture in order to face the challenges of hunger and climate change. But indigenous, campesino (peasant), and civil society sectors in Mexico and many other countries denounced it as having been an attempt to promote GM crops.
"The documents which FAO coordinated for the conference did not address fundamental questions about biotechnology, such as the domination of the entire sector by transnational businesses," asserted Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC Group. "They also ignored the impossible-to-ignore results of the use of agricultural biotechnology: the transgenic contamination of campesino varieties, the increase in the use of toxic agrochemicals on these crops (which worsens climate change), and other impacts on the environment and on consumer health."
"If the FAO had really wanted to have a discussion of options, it would not have organized a biased conference; one without the participation of the key actors, and one rejecting critical points of view. At this point, what the FAO has done is to condone the appropriation of the planet's seeds and food chain by a few transnational GM seed producers, something which will only aggravate hunger and climate chaos.
In response to the FAO conference, dozens of organizations from inside and outside of Mexico organized an alternative parallel conference called "GM Crops Rob Us of Our Future."
"That the FAO decided to meet in Mexico with government and private sector representatives under the banner of the false argument that 'biotechnology can benefit campesinos of poor countries' is an act of aggression, show of disrespect, and we take it as an affront," declared the international organization Vía Campesina, a participant in the parallel event.
"They use the word 'biotechnology,' which is broad and vague, when we all know that what they really mean to do is promote GM crops, which have never benefited and never will benefit campesino families," said Vía Campesina. "It is a major act of aggression and a provocation directed against the Mexican pueblo (people) and campesino and indigenous pueblos throughout the entire world to come to Mexico to promote GM crops. It is in Mexico itself that we have fought so hard to try to stop the contamination of our ancestral corn with transgenic pollen, which threatens the center of origin and the center of the biodiversity of this extremely important crop that provides food for our culture and for all humanity."
"GM crops don't bring benefits: only high costs and destruction which will fall on the shoulders of campesinos and indigenous people and on humanity in general," declared the Chilean Camila Montecinos, of the organization GRAIN. "These businesses seek to impose themselves on us in order to maximize their profits and their control over food. They are not concerned about the criminal damage their crops cause. The complicity of governments, research centers, and international organizations is also criminal, since it facilitates and aggravates these dangers. For these reasons, it is urgent that pueblos organize to defend their food supply and their environment."
In spite of the bleak and adverse outlook which confronts them with regard to the advance of GM, the participants at the meeting placed their bets on an optimistic outcome and on the alternatives which food sovereignty and campesino agro-ecological production offer. "Food sovereignty based on sustainable campesino agriculture will save us from the cycles [caused by] speculation and free trade and will reduce impacts on the climate," affirmed Vía Campesina. "Our wise ancestors and agro-ecological principles are wholesome, while an increasing number of scientific studies show the multitude of risks for human health which GM crops represent."
"To sow our fields with our native maize, and to defend it, is an act of resistance, an act of rebellion against an unfair system. But it is also an act of hope. Hope because we know that food sovereignty from sustainable indigenous and campesino agriculture is where the solutions to the crisis lie, and these seeds of rebellion which we sow are also the seeds of another, better world that we seek."
Camila Montecinos, "Desenmascarando las mentiras de los transgénicos," http://www.biodiversidadla.org/Principal/Contenido/Documentos/Desenmascarando_las_mentiras_de_los_transgenicos.
Silvia Ribeiro, "FAO y transgénicos: Apuesta equivocada," La Jornada, February 27, 2010, http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2010/02/27/index.php?section=opinion&article=021a1eco.
Via Campesina, "Es una agresión de parte de la FAO reunirse en México para promover transgénicos," March 1, 2010, http://www.biodiversidadla.org/Principal/Contenido/Noticias/Es_una_agresion_
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