Soenke Zehle on Sun, 15 Sep 2002 02:05:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FORCE-FEEDING THE WORLD: America's GM marketing policy in the Third World

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America's 'GM or Death' ultimatum to Africa reveals the depravity of its GM
marketing policy
23rd August 2002

Robert Vint, National Coordinator
Genetic Food Alert

Zambia has been told by the USA to use $50 million to buy America's GM maize
through the World Food Programme or face starvation. When the US tried to
force GM food aid on India, Catherine Bertini, then Executive director of
the World Food Program, declared: "Food is power. We use it to change
behavior. Some may call that bribery. We do not apologize",1 whilst an
unnamed USAID spokesman told the media "beggars can't be choosers".1 Robert
Vint, UK Coordinator of Genetic Food Alert, investigates.

 In 1998 Monsanto sent an appeal to all Africa's Heads of State, entitled
 'Let The Harvest Begin',2 which called upon them to endorse GM crops.
 Monsanto were following the advice of the world's leading PR company to
 avoid the 'killing fields' of health and environmental issues in the GM
 debate, such as the absence of independent safety testing, and to shift the
 debate to focus on supposed benefits for the poor. Western 'greens' should
 be singled out for demonisation for preventing biotech corporations from
 'feeding the world'.

 Ministers in Western governments have been bombarded with propaganda
calling upon them to ignore the 'selfish' objections of their own citizens -
 consumers, health advocates, environmentalists and food retailers - because
 this technology was the only hope for the world's poor. American TV
 audiences have seen hundreds of adverts depicting smiling well-fed Third
 World farmers joyfully growing GM crops. None of this propaganda is based
 fact and, significantly, none of it originates from the nations that would
 supposedly benefit from this technology.

 Monsanto's letter-writing exercise could well have been the most
 catastrophic PR stunt in history. In response the Food and Agriculture
 representative of every African nation (except South Africa) signed a joint
 statement called 'Let Nature's Harvest Continue' that utterly condemns
 Monsanto's policy. It stated: "[We] strongly object that the image of the
 poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational
 corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally
 friendly, nor economically beneficial to us",y "we think it will destroy
 diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems
 our farmers have developed for millenia, and that it will thus undermine
 capacity to feed ourselves".2

 Since that memorable occasion four years ago none of these African nations
 have accepted GM food or crops. The situation is no better for Monsanto in
 other parts of the Global South.

 Europeans were told that their insistence on labelling and regulation of GM
 food and crops would restrict the development of a technology desperately
 needed by the poor. But no poor nation was to be heard making such claims.
 What are we to make of the claims when dozens of poor nations themselves
 decide to regulate, label or ban these products? And how sincere does
 American concern for the poor appear when their Trade Representative,
 Zoellick, responds by threatening these nations with sanctions? Such
 are numerous:

 * America's treatment of Sri Lanka is one of the most shameful examples of
 its coercive policies. Sri Lanka's Health Ministry banned GM imports for a
 year on 1st May 2000, because of the untested nature of GM foods, and
 renewed this ban on 1st May 2001 after the discovery of imported
 oils and soups containing GMOs. Within ten days the US began to use the WTO
 to threaten sanctions. As a result the new import ban was postponed to 1st
 September 2001, but the President sent a 'strongly worded' letter to
 President Bush to demand that the US stopped dumping untested GM foods in
 his country. US threats continued and by August peasant groups across Asia
 were protesting about them. Hundreds of letters of solidarity were sent to
 the Sri Lankan Government. On the 14th August a petition from 200
 organisations demanding an end to US threats was presented the Bush
 Government. "Sri Lanka should not be subject to oversight or punitive
 by the WTO because of its efforts to protect its citizens from the unknown
 risks posed by genetically modified organisms," the groups said in their
 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. These appeals were
 ignored and on 3rd September Sri Lanka surrendered to threats from the US
 backed up by its ally Australia.3

 * Mexico's Senate unanimously backed GM food labelling in November 2000.
 Within three months the USA was threatening to impose sanctions via NAFTA -
 the North American Free Trade Area - unless the decision was reversed.4

 * The Secretary-General of the Thai Food and Drug Administration revealed
 July 2001 that a US trade delegation had threatened to impose trade
 sanctions on Thailand if proposals to label GM foods were approved.5
 * China introduced GM food labels and documentation requirements for GM
 imports in May 2001. By October Ann Veneman, US Agriculture Secretary (and
 previously Director of a Monsanto subsidiary), was objecting to the
 inspection of imports of US GM soya. By March 2002 China had been forced to
 'temporarily' abandon its inspections and to allow unregulated imports of
 GM soya.

 * Similar sanctions threats have also been issued by the USA against
 wealthier nations such as Canada (March 2002 in response to plans to
 introduce labelling), Argentina (Monsanto Warns Argentina to Loosen GE Crop
 Restrictions April 2002) and the entire European Union (for labelling GM
 food and for regulating GM crops)

 These acts of diplomatic terrorism by the USA may be objectionable but some
 of the steps it has taken to force acceptance of GM food and crops by these
 nations are more extreme. America reasoned that if no-one else wanted the
 crops then at least starving nations would accept them. As one USAID
 spokesman said "beggars can't be choosers". America is now the majority
 stakeholder in the World Food Programme, which it uses to facilitate the
 dumping of its crop surplusses, so it was not difficult to ensure that its
 unsellable GM crops ended up in virtually all WFP aid packages. As the
 Food Programme's previous American Executive Director, Catherine Bertini,
 boasted: "Food is power. We use it to change behavior. Some may call that
 bribery. We do not apologize".1
But America is finding that it cannot even give its GM crops away:

 * In March 2000 The Independent (UK) reported on growing protests in an
 article entitled 'America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry'. It
 stated that 'Aid is the last unregulated export market open to US farmers
 worried European and Asian consumers shun GM grain and introduce strict
 import and labelling rules' and reported on protests by the Malaysia-based
 Third World Network and by Ethiopia's Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher who, on
 behalf of an alliance of Third World nations, stated "Countries in the grip
 of a crisis.. ..should not be faced with a dilemma between allowing a
 million people to starve to death and allowing their genetic pool to be
 polluted".6 A report by Food First (USA) written around this time
 "The US food aid system appears to disregard the rights and concerns of
 recipient citizens in order to assure profits for US agribusiness giants.
 is a system that allows for the misspending of public funds in ways that
 benefit the private sector; a system that takes advantage of the lack of
 regulation concerning the genetic engineering of food; and a system that
 undermines democratic decision making about food consumption ".7

 * In the Philippines in April 2000 the nation's main farmers union, the
 protested about USAID dumping unsellable GM food on the country via the
 Rafael Mariano, chair of the KMP, condemned the deal, saying "The US
 Department of Agriculture does not conceal the true objectives of the
 program. It shamelessly describes the 'Food for Peace' as a 'concessional
 sales program to promote exports of US agricultural commodities'".8 South
 Africa's Biowatch joined in the protests, stating "Africa is treated as the
 dustbin of the world. To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an
 act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on
 foreign aid".8

 * In June that year cyclone-hit Orissa, India, was the unknowing recipient
 of unlabelled and illegal GM food aid from the US. India's Research
 Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology detected the dumping,
 condemned it as a hidden subsidy for America's biotech industry and issued
 declaration calling for a ban on the practice.9

 * The Association of Burundi Consumers (ABUCO) and other organisations
 to President Clinton in September 2000 to protest about dumping of
 unlabelled maize in Burundi and to ask why food exported to Europe was
 labelled but food aid to Africa was not.10

 * In January 2001 Bosnian officials rejected 40,000 tonnes of GM animal
 provided as aid by the US.11

 * Equador halted imports of World Food Programme aid for poor children in
 May 2001 after the children held protests outside the WFP offices.12 The
 food was from the USA and 55% of the ingredients were GM so making it
 illegal in Equador.13

 * Later, in April 2001, Bolivians were furious to discover that their food
 aid from the USA contained high levels of GM soya and cornmeal - which were
 illegal under Bolivian law. US Ambassador Manuel Rocha, ignoring the
 regulations, told Bolivia that "if they didn't like genetically engineered
 food, they should think twice about ever visiting the US because that is
 what we offer to visitors."14 Tests of Bolivian food aid in 2002 have
 revealed Star Link corn and other varieties banned in the EU.
 * In May 2001 tests arranged by Colombia Consumers (COCO) of Colombian food
aid supplied to the National Program of Food and Nutrition Program revealed
 that the soya was an incredible 90% genetically modified.15

 * In June 2000 Guatemalans protested about the presence of GM corn in
 imported aid for drought-hit peasants,16 while eight leading Nicaraguan
 organisations made similar complaints about the activities of the WFP and
 USAID after food samples tested positive for GM. A US Embassy spokesperson
 said emphatically, "We are not using genetically-altered seeds. Neither
 USAID nor any other agency is promoting or financing the distribution of
 such seeds within Nicaragua." Representatives of the World Food Programme
 also issued 'denials' which on close reading did not deny anything.17

In the last few months America's controlling stake in the World Food
 Programme has given it the power to exploit Africa's crisis by offering its
 'GM or Death' ultimatum to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is only
 because the US can prevent the WFP from purchasing available non-GM food
 from Southern nations that it able to tell these nations that they must buy
 GM maize, that they must buy it from the US and that it must be unmilled.
 Financially, this aid primarily benefits the US biotech industry rather
 the poor. The US offered Zambia $50 million (the annual sum the biotech
 industry spends on TV ads) on strict condition that it only be spent on GM
 maize from the USA. India has vast surplus stocks of rice - 65 times as
 as Africa needs - that would be available at half the cost of the US maize,
 but Zambia is forbidden to buy this with the money. Similar conditions were
 imposed on Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi. Zambia's response
 the death of the 'feeding the world' PR strategy. Referring to the maize,
 President Levy Mwanawasa said "if it is not fit then we would rather
 18 - and the national paper added "If the
 US insists on imposing this genetically modified maize on our people, we
 will be justified in questioning their motive".18

 In a region devastated by HIV/AIDS, where much of the population have
 deficient immune systems, where bacterial diseases are widespread and where
 outdated antibiotics are in widespread use there are sound medical reasons
 to reject crops containing genes for antibiotic resistance. This is the
 reason for which they have been rejected in Europe. 19

 Monsanto and its Government cronies are desperate for real television
 footage of starving Africans gratefully eating GM food - so desperate that
 they would allow millions to starve if they fail. But independent experts
 agree that agricultural biotechnology is, at best, irrelevant to famine

 American GM agricultural systems are irrelevant to poor and famine-stricken
 nations. US farms employ under 2 million farmers yet will require in 2002 a
 subsidy of over 20 thousand million dollars. This subsidy does not help
 American family farms, most of which face bankruptcy, but it does provide
 essential indirect subsidy to the biotech corporations. Poorer nations
 cannot support agricultural systems that are so capital-intensive and that
 employ so few.

 Indian food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma, says: "Somehow,
 biotechnologists prefer to turn a blind eye to the ground realities,
 the realities from the commercial interests of the biotechnology
 In their over-enthusiasm to promote an expensive technology at the cost of
 the poor, they have forgotten that biotechnology has the potential to
 further the great divide between the haves and have-nots.. .. Biotechnology
 will, in reality, push more people in the hunger trap. With public
 and resources being diverted from the ground realities, hunger will only
 grow in the years to come".20 Ethiopia's Food and Agriculture spokesman,
 Tewolde Egziabher, agrees, adding "this notion that genetically engineered
 crops will save developing countries misses the real point. The world has
 never grown as much food per capita as it is doing now, yet the world has
 also never had as many hungry. The problem is not the amount of food
 produced, but how it is both produced and distributed. For example, farmers
 in developing countries who buy genetically engineered seeds that cannot
 reproduce--and so can't be saved and used for next year's crop--become tied
 to transnational companies like Monsanto".21

 A Christian Aid report states "GM crops are taking us down a dangerous farm
 track creating classic preconditions for hunger and famine" 22, whilst an
 ActionAid statement concludes "The use and patenting of GM food and farming
 technologies in developing countries could have extremely serious economic
 implications.. ..the worst off are likely to be the poorest farmers..
 ..this may ultimately lead to the very poorest leaving farming altogether,
 exacerbating the shift to cities and increasing urban poverty".23

 Even Steve Smith, Director of biotech corporation Novartis (now Syngenta),
 admitted in 2000 that " If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the
 world, tell them that it is not. To feed the world takes political and
 financial will".24

 There is no global shortage of food, nor is there likely to be one in the
 near future. Europe and America destroy surplus crops each year - but so do
 some of the poorest nations. The problem is not production but
 During every famine the affected nation exports food. Millions of people -
 including many farm labourers - are now too poor to buy the crops grown in
 their own nations - or even on the land they work. They starve while much
 the world's food crops are bought by the West to feed cattle, pigs and
 chickens - and while much of the farmland is used, as required by the IMF,
 to grow cotton, coffee, tobacco and flowers for export. The millions of
 tons of surplus Indian rice that the Zambians are forbidden to buy is
 rotting in warehouses because the poor of India cannot afford to buy it.
 Malawi, too, had non-GM surplusses until a few months ago, but was required
 by the World Bank to sell them to service its debt.

 GM crops can do nothing to address the true causes of famine. Inasmuch as
 they benefit wealthy farmers - who can afford the GM seeds and the
 that must be used with them - at the expense of smallholders, GM crops
 actually exacerbate the inequality that causes famine. Exported GM cash
 crops, such as Bt cotton and 'controlled-ripening' coffee, will not feed
 poor - nor will profits from them go to the poor to enable them to buy
 GM 'controlled-ripening' coffee, being developed in the USA, does away with
 the need for coffee-pickers - so threatening with unemployment (and
 therefore malnutrition) up to 60 million destitute coffee-pickers in over

 The 'Vision 2020' development project in the state of Andhra Pradesh,
 will involve the clearance of 20 million cotton growers and other
 smallholders from the land to make way for vast automated plantations of GM
 cotton. The wealthiest landlords will profit whilst millions of refugees
 will face starvation. 26

 A handful of biotech corporations, such as Monsanto, now have virtual
 monopoly control of agricultural seed and chemical sales in many Southern
 nations - making the food security of these nations vulnerable to
 stock-market fluctuations. The corporations have the power to buy up any
 local seed company and thereby remove traditional seed varieties from the
 market. To ensure a continuing market for their products they are
 determined to destroy the traditional practice of saving seed from one
 harvest for planting in the next season. If farmers use their own seeds
 they will not buy from corporations. To prevent this practice the companies
 already give priority to the marketing of F1 hybrids - plants that produce
 sterile offspring. But even more desirable for them are 'terminator
 crops' - seeds genetically modified to ensure that they grow into sterile
 crops - and 'traitor crops' - crops genetically modified so that they fail
 to grow or ripen unless sprayed with a chemical bought from the same
 company. Only when the biotech companies have monopolised the seed industry
 and forced Third World nations to accept GM crops will they be able to
 universalise Terminator and Traitor crops and so permanently trap Third
 World farmers.

 Through the 'GM or Death' aid policy it may be possible to force the poor
 eat GM food but it still seems difficult to force poor nations to plant GM
 crops. The most effective technique is to ensure that they are planted
 without consent. Several nations have discovered that GM seeds have been
 illegally sold to farmers without their consent - sometimes GM seed has
 deliberately been marketed as conventional seed, often conventional seed
 supplies contain suspiciously high levels of GM contamination and, finally,
 GM seeds provided as food aid have been accidentally planted by farmers.
 This seems to be the cause of the widespread GM contamination of maize in
 Mexico, where GM varieties are banned.

 Deliberate contamination through food aid neatly complements America's
 strategy of forcing GM food down the throats of the starving. Having
 successfully contaminated Mexico, America hopes to repeat the exercise
 across southern Africa. America has made it very clear to the African
 nations obliged to receive its aid that it will only provide whole kernels
 of maize and will not mill them to prevent them from growing. They know
 that wealthy farmers in these nations, desperate to obtain seed corn for
 next year's crop, will be able to pay more for this corn than will the
 starving poor. Once GM crops are illegally growing throughout southern
 Africa, America reasons, how will they be able to ban these crops?

 GM crops have no future. The people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and
 Latin America refuse to eat them. Farmers in India,27 Brazil 28 and the
 Phillippines 29 are burning and destroying them. The people of America are
 blissfully unaware of their existence - but, when asked, 93% want GM food
 labelled and most would try to avoid it. In response the share values of
 Monsanto are crashing. The US is on the verge of a GM trade war with the
 rest of the world. Now the principal marketing strategy of the biotech
 try, refined over the years, has descended into blatant terrorism that
 threatens the food security of dozens of nations and the lives of millions.


 1 Africa's Tragedy: Famine as Commerce. Devinder Sharma 06/08/02
 2 Selling Suicide: farming, false promises and genetic engineering in
 developing countries. Christian Aid
 3 PANAP Press Release 14 August 2001 Asian Groups Strongly Protest U.S.
 Threat of WTO Retaliation on Sri Lankan
 GMO Ban
 4 US Agribusiness Fights Mexico Mandatory Labels for GE Foods IS MEXICO
 4 Industry mobilizes to modify Mexico's labeling measures February 12,
 2001 -- Cropchoice news
 5 US threatened trade sanctions to block GM labels, says Thai FDA editorial team July 19, 2001
 6 America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry By Declan Walsh
 Independent (UK) 30 March 2000
 7 Food Aid in the New Millenium - Genetically Engineered Food and Foreign
 Assistance Food First (USA)
 8 'Farmers decry dumping of hazardous GMOs from relief agencies, biotech
 firms'. KMP Press Release, 14th April 2000
 9 Action Alert (June 2000) STOP DUMPING GE FOOD! Research Foundation for
 Science, Technology and Ecology, India
 report by Burundi news agency Net Press on 5th September Source: Net Press
 news agency, Bujumbura, in French 1834 gmt 05 Sep 00.BBC Worldwide
 Monitoring/ (c) BBC 2000.
 11 "Humanitarian" GM corn: U.S. Withdraws Genetically Engineered Corn -
 Animal Feed Donation After Bosnia's Hesitation SARAJEVO, Jan 30, 2001 --
 Agence France Presse
 2001 Info & Photos from Red por una America Latina Libre de Transgenicos
 Casilla 17-15-246-C Quito - Ecuador
 14 Let Them Eat Scrambled DNA: Genetically Altered Crops Included In
 Bolivian Food Relief 22 Sept 2001 Earth Island Journal
 ANDEAN REGION 05 May 2001 Red por una America Latina Libre de Transgenicos
 17 Environmentalists Accuse World Food Program and USAID of Distributing
 Genetically-Modified Foods SOURCE: NicaNet, May 27, 2002
 18 Dignity in hunger, The Post, Zambia, Editorial, July 30, 2002
 19 British Medical Association report: The Impact of Genetic Modification
 Agriculture, Food and Health 1999 ISBN 07279 1431 6
 20 Biotechnology will bypass the hungry. Devinder Sharma. AgBioIndia
 28 June 2002
 21 Why poor nations would lose in a biotech war on hunger. Marilyn Berlin
 Snell interviews Tewolde Egziabher. Sierra Magazine, July/August
 22 Selling Suicide: farming, false promises and genetic engineering in
 developing countries. Christian Aid
 23 AstraZeneca and its genetic research: Feeding the world or fuelling
 hunger? ActionAid 1999 ISBN 1 872502 59 8
 24 Steve Smith, SCIMAC and Novartis (now SYNGENTA), Tittleshall Village
 public meeting on proposed local GM farm scale trial, 29th March 2000
 25 Robbing Coffee's Cradle.... ActionAid
 26 Prajateerpu: A Citizens' Jury/Scenario Workshop on Food and Farming
 Futures for Andhra Pradesh, India. IIED 2002 ISBN 1 84369 191 4
 27 Cremation Monsanto continues in Karnataka 05/01/02
 28 Friday January 26, 8:57 am Eastern Time Brazilian farmers storm
 Monsanto, uproot plants
 AGAINST MONSANTO by Greg Alvarez, Secretary General, KMP- Far Southern
 GRAINS OF DELUSION: Golden Rice Seen From the Ground: Joint report by
 BIOTHAI (Thailand), CEDAC (Cambodia), DRCSC (India), GRAIN, MASIPAG
 (Philippines), PAN-Indonesia and UBINIG (Bangladesh) February
 [Also available as a PDF File: Adobe Acrobat needed to read it]
 KMP Peasant Movement of the Philippines
 GM Third World Warning (BBC News)
 Third World rejects GM (Independent)
 Selling suicide - farming, false promises and genetic engineering in
 developing countries
 Biotechnology and genetically modified organisms
 The Biosafety Protocol - controlling trade in GMOs
 GMOs and the WTO: Overruling the right to say no
 The Biosafety Protocol: Agreed in Montreal
 The Battle for International Rules on GMOs: The biotech industry versus the
 world's poor
 Genetically modified seeds: Corporate control over farmers in the Third
 GRAIN: Genetics Resources Action International
 Rural Advancement Foundation International
 Food First
 The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
 Corner House Briefing 10 on Genetic Engineering & World Hunger
 Genetic Engineering: Can it Feed the World? GeneWatch Briefing
 Feeding the World? Jules Pretty examines the myths and realities of
 sustainable farming's quiet revolution
 Suspend GM Crops For 5 Years demand Scientists from South & North
 Corner House Briefing 10 on Genetic Engineering and World Hunger

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