1.First we impoverish you, then we enslave you - GM WATCH commentary
2.Four African Presidents Support Biotech, US Official Says - Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State
1.First we impoverish you, then we enslave you
In the article below Pamela Bridgewater, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who is helping to run the GM crop promotional in in Burkina Faso, claims West African presidents support "biotechnology" because it has the potential to increase agricultural production and improve the standard of living in their countries. According to the US Dept of State, "The presidents realize that agriculture -- the largest part of Africa's economy -- is essential to economic and human development throughout the continent." And the US of course is doing everything it can to assist that development.
Yesterday in an interview with Voice of America, GM WATCH coordinator, Jonathan Matthews drew attention to the terrible irony of the US pushing GM crops like Bt cotton as a way of improving the lot of West African farmers, noting the US's record of impoverishing those same farmers through the massive subsidies it gives to US farmers. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3857
Action Aid provides a costing on the impact of the US's over 3 billion dollars in cotton subsidies - subsidies which even the WTO has ruled to be wrong:
- In 2002, the US produced 36% of the world's cotton exports. In the same year, subsidies to its 30,000 farmers amounted to $3.6bn.
- The World Bank (2002) found that an end to all forms of global protection would increase cotton prices by an average of 12.7% over a 10-year period. The largest gains would go to Africa, with exports increased by an average of 12.6%.
- The African countries that rely on cotton are among the poorest of the world. They produce 17% of cotton sold on the world market.
- Production costs in Africa are amongst the lowest in the world and the cotton quality very high, making African producers potentially some of the most competitive global players.
- Cotton revenues constitute from 50-80% of the exports of Mali, Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso.
- More than 9 million people in West Africa rely on cotton for their livelihood. http://allafrica.com/stories/200406170658.html
If the US really wanted to help people in West Africa, it would do what groups like Action Aid are asking:
- 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. http://allafrica.com/stories/200406170658.html
But far from offering poor countries even a modicum of hope or redress in this area, a spokesman for the United States trade representative, Robert B. Zoellick, was quoted as responding to the WTO's ruling by defending the US's $18+billion farm subsidies, saying, "We will defend US agricultural interests in every form we need to." http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=3857
The truth is that the current US administration is not really concerned about the farmers of West Africa. It is in the business of defending and promoting US agricultural interests.
In reality, for all its grandstanding in Burkina Faso the US, spends less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget on aid, making it the smallest contributor of foreign aid among major donor governments in terms of national wealth (GNP). The reality of the current conference in West Africa can, in fact, best be understood in the terms in which the US itself frames its aid programmes: "Foreign aid is a tool of U.S. foreign policy" which is in turn a tool of the Bush administration's economic agenda and support for its own giant corporations. http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/action_foreignaid.html#_edn2
Or in the candid words of USAID, "The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States... Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans." http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=165
2.Four African Presidents Support Biotech, US Official Says
United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
June 22, 2004
The presidents of four West African countries have voiced support for agricultural biotechnology and for science in general, saying science-based technologies can help end famine on their continent, says Pamela Bridgewater, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
In a June 21 interview the first day of an agricultural science and technology ministerial conference in Burkina Faso, Bridgewater said that the presidents of Mali, Niger, Ghana and Burkina Faso underlined to U.S. officials the importance they attach to the conference and to its focus on food security, water resource management and the uses of biotechnology to improve the overall health and well-being of their populations.
Burkina Faso is co-hosting the June 21-23 meeting with the U.S. departments of Agriculture (USDA) and State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The conference drew more than 200 participants -- primarily government officials and agricultural researchers -- from Africa, North America and Europe.
The four West African leaders believe biotechnology has the potential to increase agricultural production and improve the environment, thus improving the standard of living in their countries, Bridgewater said.
At the same time, the leaders indicated that they and their citizens want to learn more about biosecurity in order to feel confident about the safety of genetically improved crops, she said.
The presidents realize that agriculture -- the largest part of Africa's economy -- is essential to economic and human development throughout the continent, Bridgewater said.
Developing human resources is also linked to strengthening national security, Bridgewater added. Children who have no hope of a stable economic future could be more vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist and criminal groups, she said.
Discussing the role of women in development, Bridgewater said, "I have spent a lot of time in villages in Africa and have seen women eke the land for income for their families' survival." Biotechnology is one of the tools that can help them increase production and their household incomes while requiring less labor, she said.
Bridgewater said conference participants hope the meeting will launch a series of follow-up events to share information about new agricultural technologies.
"We have a real opportunity now to educate more people about the real nature of biotech crops and seeds," she said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)