Veneman pushing GMOs into Africa/U.S. Team to Help West Africa Improve Its Cotton Industry (25/9/2004)
"We will use a variety of technical assistance, training, and cooperative research, exchange, and development programs to facilitate and accelerate the transfer and adaptation of biotechnology to the [West African] region." - US Ag Secretary, Ann Veneman (item 2)
"The United States will send a team of public- and private-sector experts to West Africa to assess that region's cotton industry and suggest improvements to production, processing and logistics systems so the region can become more efficient and competitive, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman says." (item 1)
While the US's massive cotton subsidies have proved ruinous to West African farmers, the US continues to pose as the saviour of Africa while pushing GMOs like Bt cotton, as part of a technological package intended to improve the lot of West African farmers.
But despite all its grandstanding, the US remains the smallest contributor of foreign aid among major donor governments in terms of national wealth (GNP). And contrast the limited self-interested assistance that it does offer with the 3 billion+ dollars a year in cotton subsidies that go to US farmers - subsidies which even the WTO has ruled to be wrong.
The African countries that rely on cotton are among the poorest of the world, and in West Africa millions rely on cotton for their livelihood. Production costs there are amongst the lowest in the world and the cotton quality is very high, making African producers potentially some of the most competitive global players.
An end to all forms of global protection, according to the World Bank, would increase cotton prices world-wide with the largest gains going to Africa with its exports increasing by an average of 12.6%.
If the US really wanted to help people in West Africa, instead of peddling GMOs it would:
- announce the immediate elimination of all forms of trade distorting subsidies to the cotton sector
- provide compensation and support to those involved in the cotton production sectors of poor countries who have suffered as a result of its policies.
1.U.S. Team to Help West Africa Improve Its Cotton Industry
2.Veneman's remarks at the 7th Annual AfriCANDO Trade and Investment Symposium
1.U.S. Team to Help West Africa Improve Its Cotton Industry
The United States will send a team of public- and private-sector experts to West Africa to assess that region's cotton industry and suggest improvements to production, processing and logistics systems so the region can become more efficient and competitive, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman says.
The effort will result in what is expected to be a model for cooperation in agriculture throughout Africa, Veneman said.
Addressing a conference on Africa in Miami September 16, Veneman said the United States also is backing an agricultural technology conference to be held in Mali later in 2004. The Mali conference would be the latest in a string of U.S.-sponsored efforts to help countries in Africa gain access to information about agricultural science and technology that could increase production.
In addition, the United States plans to help West Africa create a regional center for biotechnology, Veneman said. Toward that goal, the United States will provide technical assistance, training and cooperative research and exchanges to speed up the region's adoption of biotechnology, she said.
The secretary noted that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently said that agricultural biotechnology "plays a critical role in improving food security for developing countries."
Other technologies that can improve food production already are being used in Africa, Veneman said. She pointed to technology applications such as satellites to monitor water levels in lakes and reservoirs, and computer systems and news broadcasts in rural areas to help small farmers find current market information. Other technologies can help protect the environment by reducing the need for chemicals on growing crops and improve water management and irrigation.
Veneman commended the 53 members of the Africa Union for agreeing to devote at least 10 percent of their national incomes to programs for adopting technologies that can improve agricultural production and rural development.
2.Following is an excerpt from the transcript of Veneman's remarks
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Transcript of Keynote Address of Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman at the 7th Annual AfriCANDO Trade and Investment Symposium
Theme: "Effective and Efficient Use of Agricultural Science, Technology, and Research as Tools for African Development"
Miami, Florida, September 16, 2004
One of the most significant and compelling challenges for the people of Africa and for other countries around the world is eradicating hunger. The statistics speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Today, some 850 million people worldwide, nearly one in seven, face chronic hunger. Among the world's children, one in three is undernourished. Every five seconds a child is lost to hunger, and half the world's people live on less than $2 a day.
This is unacceptable. Hunger, malnutrition, and poverty are responsible for the ever-growing gulf between developed and developing nations. In 1996 at the World Food Summit, nations set a goal of reducing by half the number of people suffering from chronic hunger by the year 2015.
Unfortunately, the stock-taking at the World Food Summit: Five Years Later that was held in June 2002 revealed that the world, particularly much of Sub-Saharan Africa, was making far too little progress in reaching that goal.
At the current rate, the goal would not be met until around 2060 fully 45 years behind schedule. Clearly, a new emphasis with accelerated efforts was required.
Hunger and malnutrition now are recognized as symptoms of a recurring cycle. Low per capita incomes result from low agricultural productivity and thus limit the ability to grow and produce food, leading to malnutrition and poor health. These conditions further harm the ability to earn income and then the cycle worsens.
Raising agricultural productivity will help Africa break this recurring cycle, and it sets in motion a chain of other events: Farm and rural incomes rise. More food is available locally, improving nutrition and food security, and for exports, increasing export earnings. Food costs fall, giving consumers more money to spend on other products and services. This is particularly beneficial to people in developing countries who typically spend well over half of their household income on food. As productivity continues to increase, more farm labor and other resources are freed up for other sectors stimulating investment, economic growth, and higher incomes.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Organization for Economic Development, and the World Bank agree that the most effective way to reduce hunger and malnutrition is to increase agricultural productivity. The International Food Policy Research Institute has said that an increase of 3 to 4 percent per year in African agricultural yields could raise per capita incomes three times, while reducing the number of malnourished children by 40 percent.
In February, the African Union stepped up to the challenge of raising agricultural productivity. Its 53 member countries agreed to expedite their commitment to devote at least 10 percent of their individual national budgets to agriculture and rural development through the New Partnership for Africa's Development.
We commend the African Union for this significant commitment. These funds will be put to good use when they are invested in the dissemination and adoption of new and existing agricultural science and technology.
Current and emerging technologies can help increase farm yields, create better seed varieties, protect the environment by reducing chemical use, and improve water management and irrigation. They have the potential to help feed the hungry; improve nutrition and health; deliver inexpensive, edible vaccines; offer new market opportunities and income sources; and ultimately elevate living standards overall.
The technologies available run the gamut from biological to information, from water to land management, and from post-harvest to marketing. Of all these technologies, biotechnology has captured the most headlines. Maybe that is because biotechnology holds such enormous promise and potential to accelerate agricultural productivity.
The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization recently concluded that agricultural biotechnology plays a critical role in improving food security for developing countries. Many new technologies already are being put to use in Africa.
For example: satellites are monitoring 15 African lakes and reservoirs for variations in water levels. New computer systems installed by Zambia's National Farmer's Union are helping small-scale women farmers find current market information for their crops. The first unified agricultural market news program in Nigeria will help the entire farm sector determine when and where to most profitably buy and sell agricultural products. The Famine Early Warning System Network funded by USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] is helping African countries and regional organizations manage the risk of food insecurity through early warning and vulnerability information. And more efficient marketing and improved cold chains are keeping perishable foods fresh longer in Capetown, South Africa.
We also recognize that a supportive regulatory and policy environment is a fundamental requirement if countries are to succeed in encouraging rather than holding back farmers and entrepreneurs. Key elements include establishing the rule of law through strong legal systems and institutions that are held accountable for their actions, implementing science-based sanitary and phytosanitary regulatory systems, and promoting competition and free enterprise through an open trade and investment system and market reform.
An open economy attracts foreign and domestic investment and reduces capital flight.
We also have learned that countries should support regional efforts to develop and adopt technologies and supportive policies to conserve scarce resources. These cooperative efforts avoid costly duplication and are far more effective than countries working alone.
And finally, countries must invest in their people to build human capital through education and training.
Our government's commitment to Africa's success has never been stronger. U.S. direct bilateral assistance to Africa in our current fiscal year totals more than $2 billion, and this does not include funding for the HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Challenge Corporation initiatives.
The U.S. commitment was underscored by President Bush at the G-8 Summit in June. The President invited the heads of six African countries -- Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda to meet with the G-8 leaders. Afterwards, the G-8 agreed to undertake three new initiatives, one of which is to boost agricultural productivity and rural development in food-insecure countries, especially in Africa.
This will be accomplished through several activities, including institutional capacity-building to help to develop agricultural science and technology, raise agricultural productivity, and meet international food-safety standards.
At the G-8 meeting, the United States and other nations reaffirmed their commitment to the success of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization, or WTO, negotiations which clearly recognizes the role of trade in economic development and alleviating global hunger and poverty. The Doha mandate provides for trade capacity-building to help developing countries expand their expertise in the rules and functioning of the WTO.
This year, WTO members pledged nearly $18 million, double the original target, for technical assistance and capacity building to enable developing countries to participate fully in the Doha Development Agenda. The WTO Doha Framework Agreement that was crafted in Geneva in July sets the stage for an incomparable opportunity for comprehensive multilateral trade reform that recognizes the unique needs of developing countries.
The U.S. commitment to Africa is further underscored by the reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, until 2015, and the extension of several key provisions. AGOA continues to foster new trading opportunities, investment, jobs, and economic development. Earlier, I mentioned the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is another example of the U.S. government's commitment to strengthen ties with Africa.
African nations comprised fully one-half of the first group of 16 nations selected to submit proposals for the $1 billion in U.S. development available this year. Other important U.S. initiatives now underway include the Presidential Initiative To End Hunger in Africa, the Trade for African Development and Enterprise, and the Water for the Poor Initiative.
USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] is specifically engaged in a number of initiatives such as our partnership with what are called the "1890" Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Students of the 1890 Institutions have worked with local communities and farmers in Africa to help develop more effective farming techniques and technologies. Their efforts also include feeding the hungry and agricultural research, especially in areas where famine and hunger are the most intractable.
Of course, one area in which I have special interest is USDA's Science and Technology Initiative. I announced this Initiative at the Rome World Food Summit: Five Years Later, in June of 2002. About a year later, almost exactly a year later, USDA, in close partnership with USAID and the Department of State, hosted the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento, California. About 1,000 people, including 119 at ministerial level, attended this historic gathering.
Our focus was on how science and technology, both in small steps and in great leaps, can significantly improve the world's ability to produce food. Those who attended identified several priorities for guiding us toward this goal. These included: making applied research and technology accessible to farmers; revitalizing local and national research capacities; promoting public-private partnerships; facilitating the benefits of technology through supportive policies and regulations; paying special attention to water quality and availability; and integrating programs to address the HIV/AIDS crisis and to achieve rural economic growth and food security.
The Sacramento Conference has led to several follow-up activities, many of which are Africa-specific, including a West African Ministerial Conference that was held just this past June in Burkina Faso. The purpose of that Ministerial was to emphasize raising agricultural productivity through science and technology in a regional context.
It focused on: better water management; improving knowledge of a broad range of technologies from conventional to state-of-the art, including biotechnology; adoption of policies and regulatory frameworks that facilitate technology transfer; and strengthening public-private partnerships.
Four West African heads of state, 18 ministers, and more than 300 delegates from 22 countries participated in this conference which concluded with many positive results.
The four heads of state from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Ghana endorsed the promise of biotechnology tailored to meet the needs of their individual countries. West African ministers there adopted a resolution calling for greater research and investment in agricultural biotechnology and recommended the creation of a West African Center for Biotechnology.
The ministers also agreed that regional cooperation and partnerships are by far the most efficient and effective means of identifying problems and marshalling scientific knowledge and expertise. A Memorandum of Understanding that USDA signed with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation at the conference is a good example of this approach.
This agreement should significantly increase access by African scientists to USDA's vast technology and expertise. The agreement will broaden cooperative research programs and technology exchanges and foster the commercialization of new crop varieties throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Also at the ministerial I announced that the first group of West African scientists would soon be selected to participate in USDA's new Norman E. Borlaug International Science and Technology Fellows Program. Since that announcement, 33 agricultural scientists three of whom are from Ghana have arrived in the United States to learn about technology that can strengthen sustainable agriculture and improve global food availability. We plan to sponsor 100 fellows each year under this program, which is open to participants worldwide, with primary focus on Africa, South America, and Asia.
The United States will continue its wide-ranging efforts to promote economic growth and increased agricultural productivity in Africa through its numerous technical assistance, trade- capacity building, training; and scientific research, exchange, and cooperation programs.
Today I am pleased to announce several additional initiatives to build on the solid foundation laid at the Burkina Faso Ministerial. First, a U.S. private and public sector team of cotton experts will travel to West Africa to examine all aspects of the cotton sector. The team will suggest ways in which West African cotton industries can modify production, logistics, and processing to become more efficient and competitive. This will serve as a model for cooperation in other parts of Africa.
Next, to build on progress made at the Burkina Faso Conference we will work to ensure that a follow-up conference later this year in Mali to be hosted by West African countries that attended the Burkina Faso Ministerial will become a reality.
The United States will also help West Africa achieve its goal of creating a regional African Center of Excellence for Biotechnology. We will use a variety of technical assistance, training, and cooperative research, exchange, and development programs to facilitate and accelerate the transfer and adaptation of biotechnology to the region. Because they form the basis on which subsequent efforts will follow, guidance on establishing appropriate biotechnology standards and regulatory systems will be provided as well.
And we will work under the agreement signed in Burkina Faso to provide African governments and researchers with access to USDA's scientific resources, technologies, and experiences to increase Africa's agricultural productivity and development. We will work together to identify and transfer technologies developed by USDA's scientists that can be beneficial to farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially small-scale, resource-poor farmers.
I urge all of you developed countries, international organizations, African and African-oriented organizations, and non-governmental organizations to join in these efforts. By working in partnership, we can share the benefits of agricultural science, technology, and research with Africa and all the world's people.
No region of the world has more to gain from the opportunities that modern agricultural science and technology can offer. And no region of the world has more to lose if this opportunity is allowed to slip away. This goal can be accomplished, but only with resolve and determination.
Thank you all for having me here today, and I wish you a very, very good day."