Posted by Lisa on April 16, 2010
100+ Groups Join Scientists and Development Experts in Urging Senate to "Strip the GM Mandate" from the Global Food Security Act
Controversial language said more likely to feed biotech corporations than the world's poor
SAN FRANCISCO and JOHANNESBURG -- Experts, scientists and advocates from around the world petitioned the U.S. Senate today in a concerted attempt to strip what they term a "stealth corporate giveaway" embedded in a foreign aid bill which is expected to hit the Senate floor soon. The "Global Food Security Act" (S.384), sponsored by Senators Casey (D-PA) and Lugar (R-IN), is intended to reform aid programs to focus on longer-term agricultural development, and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises. While lauding the bill's intentions, the petitioners object to a clause effectively earmarking one agricultural technology (genetically modified - GM crops) for potentially billions of dollars in federal funding. $7.7 billion in U.S. funds are associated with the bill and no other farming methods or technologies are mentioned.
Monsanto has lobbied more than any other interest in support of this bill. The company is one of two or three dominant corporations in the increasingly concentrated biotechnology industry likely to benefit from the new research funding stream as well as from future profits from their patented products (both seeds and pesticides).
Today, scientists, development experts spanning a dozen countries, and 100+ groups representing anti-hunger, family farm, farmworker, consumer and sustainable agriculture delivered a letter urging the Senate to reject the "Global Food Security Act" until the bill is made technology-neutral. Their specific concern: language in the bill that would amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to read “Agricultural research carried out under this Act shall . . . include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including gm technology."
"The bill's focus on genetically modified technology simply makes no sense," stated Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network. "Independent science tells us that genetically modified (GM) crops have neither increased yield nor reduced hunger in the world. The most credible and comprehensive assessments of agriculture to date say that if we want to end global poverty and hunger, we'll need to focus on increasing the biodiversity and ecological resilience of small-scale farming systems."
"Here in Africa, pressure to import GM crops is wreaking havoc on our local economies," explained Mariam Mayet of the African Center for Biosafety. "In South Africa, we are now dumping GM corn into other countries, disrupting local markets and undermining the livelihoods of family farmers there. As a result, Zimbabwe has imposed a ban on GM corn imports, and Kenya—which has a bumper crop of GM-free corn and doesn't need any imports—is now grappling with a massive, illegal and unwanted shipment of 280,000 metric tons of GM corn from South Africa. A handful of powerful agribusinesses' obsession with GM is pitting African countries against each other, with Monsanto and international grain traders reaping the benefits and ordinary farmers losing out. The last thing we need from the U.S. is a bill legislating yet more money for GM crops."
Concerned groups and individuals note that if Congress singles out one technology and attaches it to a pool of foreign aid money, the pressure on developing countries to ignore other priorities and scientifically valid options—and to open their markets to that one technology—will be substantial.
“At the end of the day, the GM mandate has more to do with breaking open markets for American biotech corporations than fighting hunger," explained Annie Shattuck of the Institute for Food and Development Policy. "To get at the root of the global hunger crisis, we need to tackle poverty, something no technological silver bullet can ever do.”
Ben Burkett, National Family Farm Coalition president and Mississippi family farmer, added, "Corporate control over inputs and the free trade agenda have destroyed the livelihoods of so many farmers at home and abroad. That's why farmers worldwide are calling for food sovereignty—the right to choose fair and sustainable farming practices that protect our local food and livelihood security. This is what works best for our farms and communities."
The letter delivered to senators today calls for agricultural research funding to be focused on addressing local challenges faced by small-scale farmers, instead of mandating a specific and narrow technological fix—particularly one with little prospect of success and increasingly rejected by countries around the world.
The bill was passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 31, 2009 and the Senate is expected to vote on it soon.
Letter to Senators from 140 organizations, independent scientists and development experts delivered April 13, 2010.
April 13, 2010
The Global Food Security Act (S. 384), co-sponsored by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), is intended to reform aid programs to focus on longer-term agricultural development, and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises. With more people than ever before going hungry each day, this focus is commendable. The bill however inappropriately mandates one agricultural technology (genetically modified crops) for federal funding under the Foreign Assistance Act. This mandate is inappropriate and undermines the good intentions behind the broader focus on hunger. We are writing today to ask that you oppose the Global Food Security Act until the bill is made technology-neutral.
We are specifically concerned with section 202 of the Global Food Security Act on Agricultural Research. That language would amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to read “Agricultural research carried out under this Act shall ….. . . . include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including gm technology." Proposed changes to this language, which may insert "...including but not limited to gm technology" would not materially change the language or the meaning of the bill that passed out of committee.
The current language mandates one highly controversial type of technology (transgenics), dominated by two or three companies (most notably Monsanto), to get both taxpayer cash and, by virtue of its raised profile, favored treatment under a bill ostensibly designed to help the poor and hungry. As one might expect, Monsanto (the world’s largest purveyor of GM seeds) has done more lobbying on the Casey- Lugar Act than any other interest. The company spent over $8.6 million directly lobbying Congress last year alone.
The trouble with a mandate for GM crops is simple: it will not solve world hunger. USAID has spent millions of dollars on developing genetically modified crops over the past two decades, with not one success story to show for all the taxpayer dollars spent.
The current controversy in India over Bt brinjal (eggplant) is a good example. Bt brinjal was developed in part with funding from USAID. After ten years in development, the product caused such an outcry from citizens, scientists and state government ministers upon its commercialization that the Indian national government put an indefinite moratorium on the crop. Other GM projects have failed to help farmers on the ground, but have succeeded in creating opportunity for the US biotech industry. A partnership between USAID and Monsanto to develop a virus-resistant sweet potato in Kenya, for example, failed to deliver a useful product for farmers. After fourteen years and $6 million, local varieties vastly outperformed their genetically modified cousins in field trials. The project did, however, help establish a regulatory environment favorable to other commercial biotech applications.
If Congress singles out one technology and attaches it to a pool of foreign aid money, the pressure on developing countries to ignore local priorities and other scientifically valid options—and to open their markets to that one technology—will be substantial. Exerting such intense pressure on developing countries undermines the spirit of respect with which the US wishes to engage the rest of the world.
An alternative approach to global food security exists. In 2008, the World Bank and four UN agencies completed a four-year study conducted by more than 400 scientists and development experts from over 80 countries. Endorsed by 58 governments, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded that expensive, short-term technical fixes — including GM crops — are unlikely to adequately address the complex challenges that farmers face. Instead, the IAASTD highlighted the need to tackle the underlying causes of poverty. IAASTD priorities for future agricultural research include supporting biodiverse, ecological farming practices; increasing investments in agroecological science; and fostering collaboration between farmers and interdisciplinary teams of scientists to achieve locally, culturally and ecologically appropriate solutions.
By focusing on long term agricultural development, the Casey- Lugar Act takes one step toward addressing some of the more complex issues raised in the IAASTD. But mandating a specific and narrow technological fix—particularly one with little prospect of success and increasingly rejected by countries around the world—will undermine the more worthy efforts in this legislation.
As scientists and anti-hunger, religious, family farming, sustainable agriculture, environmental and consumer groups, we believe farmers and communities working with scientists—not Congress—should identify what technologies are most appropriate locally and what research is needed to meet socially and environmentally sustainable development goals. We ask that the mandate for GM crop research be stricken, eliminating Section 202 of the Global Food Security Act. This will keep agricultural research funding under the Foreign Assistance Act appropriately focused on the priorities and local conditions of small-scale farmers.
Please oppose S. 384 until the bill is made technology-neutral.
Agricultural Missions (NY)
Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) (AK)
California Food and Justice Coalition (CA)
Californians for GE-Free Agriculture (CA)
Californians for Pesticide Reform (CA)
Center for Environmental Health (CA)
Center for Food Safety (DC)
Clean and Healthy New York, Inc. (NY)
Community Alliance for Global Justice (WA)
The Cornucopia Institute (WI)
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice (TN)
Dakota Resource Council (ND)
Eden Foods, Inc. (MI)
Environmental Partnerships (MA)
Everybody Eats! (CO)
Family Farm Defenders (WI & National)
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (TX)
Farmworker Association of Florida (FL)
Food & Water Watch (DC & National)
Food Chain Workers Alliance (CA & National)
Food Democracy Now! (IA)
Food Empowerment Project (CA)
Friends of the Earth US (DC & National)
Full Belly Farm (CA)
Galveston Baykeeper (TX)
Grassroots International (MA)
Greenpeace US (National)
Health Care Without Harm (National)
Indiana Toxics Action (IN)
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (DC, MN & National)
Institute for a Sustainable Future (MN)
Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First (CA)
Institute for Responsible Technology (CA & IA)
International Society for Ecology and Culture (CA)
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (IA)
Jacobs Farm / Del Cabo (CA)
Justice from Farm to Plate (VT)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (ME)
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (DC & National)
Minnesota Food Association (MN)
National Family Farm Coalition (DC & National)
National Organic Coalition (National)
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ (TN)
Non-GMO Project (CA)
Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council (CT)
Northeast Organic Farming Association Massachusetts chapter, Inc. (MA)
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (ME)
Ohio Conference on Fair Trade (OH)
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (OR)
Oregon Toxics Alliance (OR)
Organic Consumers Association (MN)
Organic Seed Alliance (WA)
Permaculture Activist Magazine (IN)
Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (WV)
Pesticide Action Network North America (CA & National)
Pesticide Free Zone, Inc (CA)
Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles (CA)
Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment (CA)
Science and Environmental Health Network (IA)
Sierra Club (CA, DC, & National)
Slow Food USA
Southeastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (NC)
Sustainable Living Systems (MT)
Taos County Economic Development Corp (NM)
TEDX (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange) (CO)
The Oakland Institute (CA)
The Victory Garden Initiative (WI)
TransAfrica Forum (DC, national)
Washington Biotechnology Action Council (WA)
Western Organization of Resource Councils (ND, SD, WY, MT, CO, ID & OR)
Women's Environmental Institute (MN)
Development organizations (outside the US)
African Centre for Biosafety (South Africa)
Agrar Koordination (Germany)
Biowatch South Africa (South Africa)
Butere Focused Women in Development (Kenya)
Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (Tunisia)
Consumers Union of Japan (Japan)
Eco-TIRAS Intl Env Assn of River Keepers (Moldova)
Ekogaia Foundation (South Africa)
ETC Group/Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (Canada)
Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development (MASIPAG) (Philippines)
Green Foundation (India)
Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (Zambia)
Nature's Path Foods Inc. (Canada)
Ng’ombe na Mahindi (NGMOA) (Kenya)
NO! GMO Campaign (Japan)
Organisation Béninoise pour la Promotion de l'Agriculture Biologique (OBEPAB) (Benin)
Pesticide Action Network Africa (Senegal)
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (Malaysia)
Pesticide Action Network UK
Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk (Germany)
Plaguicidas y Sus Alternativas de América Latina RAPAL-PAN Internacional (Latin America)
Practical Action (UK)
Red de Acciòn en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina (RAP-AL) - PAN Latin America
Safe Food Coalition (South Africa)
Save Our Seeds (EU)
Servicio de Información Mesoamericana sobre Agricultura Sostenible (SIMAS) (Nicaragua)
South African Freeze Alliance on Genetic Engineering (South Africa)
Southeast Asian Council for Food Security & Fair Trade (SEACON) (Malaysia)
Third World Network (Malaysia & International)
Uganda Network on Toxic Free Malaria Control (UNETMAC) (Uganda)
Women for Sustainable Development (Tunisia)
49th Parallel Biotechnology Consortium (Intl)
Independent scientists and development experts*
Dr. Hans Herren, President Millennium Institute* and Co-Chair, IAASTD
Dr. Molly D. Anderson, College of the Atlantic,* IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author, North America & Europe Report (USA)
Dr. Philip Bereano, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington* (USA)
Rachel Berger, Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development* (UK)
Dra. Michelle E. Chauvet Sánchez Pruneda, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana*, IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author Latin America & Caribbean Report (Mexico)
Elenita Dano, Participatory Enhancement and Development of Genetic Resources in Asia* IAASTD Lead Author, East Asia & Pacific Report (Philippines)
Barbara Dinham, IAASTD Review Editor, North America & Europe Report (UK)
Dr. Bruce Ferguson, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur San Cristóbal de Las Casas* (Mexico)
Prof. Catherine Finnoff, University of Massachusetts Amherst* (USA)
Dr. Harriet Friedmann, University of Toronto,* IAASTD Review Editor, North America & Europe Report (Canada)
Dr. Mario Giampietro, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,* Institute of Environmental Science and Technology*, IAASTD Lead Author Global Report (Spain/Italy)
Dr. Tirso Gonzales, The University of British Columbia Okanagan,* IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author, Latin America & Caribbean Report (Canada/Peru)
Dr. Falguni Guharay, IAASTD Lead Author, Latin America & Caribbean Report (Nicaragua)
Benedikt Haerlin, IAASTD Advisory Bureau (Germany)
Dr. Jack Heinemann, University of Canterbury,* IAASTD Lead Author Synthesis Report (New Zealand)
Dr. S. Ryan Isakson, Saint Mary's University,* (Canada)
Dr. JoAnn Jaffe, University of Regina,* IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author, North America & Europe Report (Canada)
Christopher Jones, Agricultural Christian Fellowship* (UK)
Dr. Jack Kloppenburg, University of Wisconsin*
Dr. Carol Landry, Ohio State University* (USA)
Dr. Kathleen McAfee, San Francisco State University* (USA)
Dr. Philip McMichael, Cornell University* USA
Khaddouja Mellouli, Center of Arab Women for Training and Research, IAASTD Advisory Bureau member (Tunisia)
Dr. Douglas Murray, Colorado State University,* IAASTD Review Editor, Global Report
Dr. Gerardo Otero, Simon Fraser University* (Canada)
Dr. Ivette Perfecto, University of Michigan,* IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author, Latin America & Caribbean Report (USA)
Dr. Romeo F. Quijano, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines, IAASTD Advisory Bureau (Philippines)
Catherine Rutivi, IAASTD Advisory Bureau member, Sub Saharan Africa (Senegal)
Dr. Gerald Smith, University of Michigan*
Dr. William Stafford, Proteapermaculture (South Africa)
Dr. Koa Tasaka, Pesticide Action Network Japan
Dale Jiajun Wen, International Forum on Globalization, IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author, East Asia & Pacific Report (US/China)
Dr. Angus Wright, California State University, Sacramento,* IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author, North America & Europe Report (USA)
Dr. Susan Wright, University of Michigan Ann Arbor* (USA)
Dr. Rym Ben Zid, Tunisia, IAASTD Coordinating Lead Author, Central West Asia & North Africa Report (Tunisia)
* Institutional affiliation provided for identification purposes only.