24 October 2002
MOLECULAR EMPIRES/PEASANTS SCIENTISTS’ UNITY STATEMENT
1. Molecular Empires - Dr Richard Hindmarsh
2. Peasants Scientists Unity Statement
1. Molecular Empires
AgBioIndia Mailing List
24 October 2002
Subject: Biotech's Empire: A peep behind the scene
Like the Amoeba, the biotech's empire too has its pseudopodia -- innumerable arms that emerge from the blue to spread its harmful tentacles far and wide. With politicians, policy makers and agricultural scientists gasping for the green bills, and more than eager to jump at the mere sound of the money jingle, the pseudopodia of the biotech empire are quick to ascertain the need and grab the opportunity.
No wonder, we have a plethora of agricultural research organisations that have sprung up in the recent past. All these initiatives ride on the biotechnology bandwagon. These are not based on the actual needs of the small and marginalized communities of the developing world but favour the rich and the powerful, the industry and the polity. These are in reality aimed at further exploiting the poor and the hungry and that too in the name of science and technology.
Biotech is the new mantra for the Asia-Pacific region. The Amoeba has already made its inroads, with many governments being lured by greed. In the days to come, more specifically in the last week of October, another gigantic effort will be made by one of the major pseudopodia of the biotech's empire -- the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) -- to strongly recommend the imposition of GM technology for alleviating poverty and hunger in the developing world. It is primarily for this reason that CGIAR has for the first time in its history is holding its annual general meeting (AGM) in Manila, instead of Washington DC.
The detailed analysis below by Dr Richard Hindmarsh from the faculty of Contemporary Studies at the University of Queensland, Ipswich, Australia, takes you behind the scenes to understand the dirty politics being played by the agricultural scientists in an desperate effort to ensure their own livelihood security.
Constructing Would-be Molecular Empires:
Behind the Scenes
By Richard Hindmarsh
To better understand the social and environmental implications of GM technologies, and the nature and scope of pro-biotech campaigns, in the South, we need to identify and analyse all forces behind biodevelopment, both visible and not so visible ones. With most analysis now on the visible TNC forces in Asia, this paper is more interested to explore the not so visible forces-the GM infrastructure agents. These are central to laying the groundwork for GM TNCs and commercial biotechnology to follow. Some recognise this process as a new colonisation occurring in the South following on from the green revolution, a 'biocolonisation', where GM interests are now converging on the South amidst intense and entrenched resistance, and concerns held, in other parts of the world.
Asia, for example, is very attractive to commercial GM interests because it offers:
1. an extremely lucrative AUD$685 billion food market, with 12% met with imports;
2. appeal for legitimisation tactics. If GM agriculture and food can be established in Asia, then that will facilitate Northern governments to more easily brush aside protest there;
3. a site for GM experimentation. With minimalist regulatory regimes, complicit governments - under the burden of debt and underdevelopment, technological dependency and so forth, with poorly informed populations, with NGOs thin on the ground, Asia offers much potential for establishing GM, for trying to sort out its technical problems, such as gene flow through cross-pollination, horizontal gene transfer, and understanding ecological systems. Such experimentation can of course be considered akin to using the South as a dumping ground, as the history of pesticides and pharmaceuticals, and infant milk formula, well informs us;
4. an avenue for enhanced consolidation of global industrial agriculture at the expense of thriving peasant, community and small farmer economies. Even if GM eventually fails to address its technical problems, it provides the avenue now for expansion of monoculture systems and western patent regimes.
Given those exceptionally good reasons to address GM effectively, key forces behind commercial biodevelopment include the Rockefeller Foundation and the green revolution, the Foundation's laying of infrastructure networks in Asia and Africa, and other Asian infrastructure agents, including ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific International Molecular Biology Network (A-IMBN), USAID, and the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI).
1. The Rockefeller Foundation and the green revolution
The Rockefeller Foundation emerged in the early 20th century amidst social upheaval in the US that marked the transition from mid-19th US as rural and agricultural to the new corporate and urban industrial order. To control the masses and to overcome the new order's gross inequalities and labour relations, elite managerial ideals combined with corporate philanthropy.
The Foundation thus emerged in 1913 with a research policy embedded in 'objective' science or a technical approach to address the problems of dissent. Social factors were not referred to as that would address the causes of the problems created in the first place by corporate interests. Foundation trustees were leading administrators, capitalists and scientists, interested in preserving the contemporary social order.
As part of its program, the Foundation embraced 'engineering biology' - which emerged in 1900 with a view to transform nature as 'raw material' - to reconstruct the natural order to make it 'rational & efficient', to create a 'technology of living substance'. In 1901, the term Biontotechnik emerged in Europe to define the modification of living organisms through technology. Concurrently, (mechanistic) genetics emerged to provide the technical avenue for engineering biology, with control of heredity, and thus future nature, the goal.
Enrolled to such visions, in the late 1920s, the Foundation implemented the eugenics inspired 'Science of Man' genetics-based project to instigate social behavioural control. By the 1930s, however, these projects were a liability because of new knowledge and the stigma of racial, class, gender and ethnocentric prejudice and political propaganda. Molecular biology emerged to replace this earlier program, and was significantly created by the Foundation as the new surer road for social control and human betterment. It disbursed US$90 million to support molecular biology between 1932 and 1957 through an extensive system of grants and fellowships, and institution building.
Scientific discoveries resulted, including the double helix in 1953. All this enrolled a powerful coalition of law, state, and corporate sponsorship and allied research institutions to reshape medical (and agricultural, see below) production systems along molecular lines. By 1973, the central techniques of genetic engineering were discovered, which was the platform, along with patent acts, for the rise of today's bioindustrial complex.
Concurrently, though, the Rockefeller Foundation had been enrolled to agricultural genetics during the 1920s-1940s, with corn hybridisation developments in the US. This led to the idea of the green revolution between Foundation president Raymond Fosdick and US Vice President Henry A. Wallace, the underlying private vision being political and economic.
The political benefits were to achieve social stability through increased food production and a strengthened middle-class peasantry to counter communism, and make the world safe for profits. By association, commercial benefits would accrue for Wallace as the founder of the forerunner of Pioneer Hi-Bred (hybrid seed), and for the Rockefellers through the sale of Standard Oil petrochemical energy, pesticides and fertilisers.
The public vision to enroll others though was 'feed the hungry through intensive agriculture'. The green revolution began in Mexico in 1943, and was later transferred to Asia with all its questionable impacts. Central to the green revolution was the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and later the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system to coordinate the green revolution. Both are now central avenues for the 'bio-revolution' with the new rhetoric of the 'the doubly green revolution' to feed the hungry by addressing the declining yields of the green revolution, with reduced need for pesticides, and with the help of the private sector.
Over the past decade, private sector collaboration has strengthened with the CGIAR. The rationale for this was revealed in 1989 at a World Bank forum-Agricultural Biotechnology: Opportunities for International Development, held in Canberra, Australia. Participants included many western development and aid agencies, the Rockefeller Foundation, biotech and seed TNCs, and representatives of Southern countries housing centres of biodiversity (or genetic resources), that is, CGIAR locations.
The primary points of the World Bank's plan were that only 'appropriate' biotech research and development should be undertaken by developing countries (that is, non commercial or 'orphan' crop research), the North would do the rest; that transfer of biotechnology was conditional on the adoption of western patent systems and voluntary regulatory systems; that capacity building for biotechnology was important; and, finally that the CGIAR needed to collaborate with the private sector.
Nearly a decade before the Rockefeller Foundation had significantly helped to lay the groundwork for such policy directives to emerge, especially concerning rice.
2. The laying of infrastructure networks by the Rockefeller Foundation in Asia and Africa
In the early 1980s, chemical, agribusiness and pharmaceutical corporations began earnestly developing GM in the North, building on a platform of many small biotechnology companies started earlier by a wave of entrepreneurial academic scientists, especially in the US.
At the same time, the Rockefeller Foundation investigated biotechnology prospects for the world's major food crops. In 1984, it began a 15-year funding program for rice biotech in the South called the 'International Program on Rice Biotechnology'. It brokered a policy and R&D network to create the new molecular rice technological frame, and the program dispensed almost US$105 million.
It enrolled leading plant science labs in the North, national rice-breeding programs in the South, and CGIAR rice research centers - IRRI, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA). About 700 scientists from over 30 countries, including 400 Asian scientists were enrolled to participate, and promising young Asian scientists were sent to laboratories in the North, and institutions in the South that hosted them on their return were funded.
The program embraced a technical approach of incorporating specialised traits into rice varieties. Many scientific breakthroughs resulted. The rhetoric about feeding the hungry continued, but the Foundation stayed with its technical approach, not addressing the real causes of underdevelopment such as structural adjustment policies, debt, and inappropriate technology transfer. Assessment of farmers' opinions was dismissed as too expensive and thus unwarranted. Participatory approaches, for example, as called for by the World Commission for Environment and Development in 1987, were ignored, and low input systems were dismissed as unsustainable, incapable of feeding increasing populations.
In 1999, with the biotech rice program well under way, with rice genomics programs fostering, and with GM rice biotech capacity building established across Asia, the Foundation concluded that its infrastructure-building role was over in Asia and that it was time to turn to Africa. Fruitful legacies included China, India and Korea firmly integrating biotech into national rice research programmes, and the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam all moving in that direction; and, IRRI setting up the Asian Rice Biotechnology Network in 1993 to engage with much infrastructure building with its National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) partners. Additionally, IRRI's 2002-04 Plan is strongly committed to bioproduct development, including herbicide-tolerant rice, in partnership with development NGOs, extension agencies, and private companies like those of the Asia Pacific Seeds Association (APSA) including all major Asian seed and biotech companies such as Monsanto, Novartis, Syngenta, DuPont, Aventis and RiceTec.
Onward, to Africa
In 1999, the Rockefeller Foundation began building on the rice biotech work started at WARDA in 1991, to combine Asian and African rices to create 'NEw RIce for AfriCA' (NERICAs), for example, rice with droopy leaves to reduce weeds.
In March 2002, the Prime Minister of the Republic of CÃ´te d'Ivoire launched the African Rice Initiative to promote NERICAs, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, Japan, the UNDP, the World Bank, USAID, FAO, and the African Development Bank. It only recognises agronomic problems as the technical problem for the failure of the green revolution in Africa not the social context. The latter also included other central reasons for hunger in Africa including debt, war, poor land management, insecure tenure, land hunger, and the planting of inappropriate cash crops such as tobacco.
Private GM initiatives by Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred especially have already started in Africa, but so far have not been very successful; and resistance has also emerged. Significantly, for GM crops to succeed in Africa, the enrolling strategies of the Rockefeller Foundation are considered vital to create a better demand for bioproducts in the public sector, by public scientists, in national agricultural research programmes.
3. Other infrastructure agents In Asia.
A central ASEAN agent for biotechnology is the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) (established in 1978). In 1989, its Sub-Committee on Biotechnology was formed to implement regional biotech projects. Its priority areas are disease treatment and prevention, crop productivity and product quality, and better environmental resource management. Its main objectives are to establish the ASEAN biotechnology information network, and collaborative joint ventures with the private sector. Dialogue partners and main funders include Australia, Canada, EU, Japan, India, NZ and the Republic of Korea. About eight research projects are in the pipeline. Other ASEAN bodies are also implementing biotech-related activities, for example, the Senior Officials Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries (SOM-AMAF). Since 1998, this body has been exploring the possibility of harmonisation of national guidelines and regulations for biotechnology. There has also been the publication of two books: 'Biotechnology for Development', and 'The ASEAN-Australia Biotechnology Directorate'. An Asian 'Biotechnology Atlas' is under development.
Areas of development targeted include plant biotechnology, animal biotechnology, an ASEAN-Canada Biotechnology Information Network; utilisation of tropical rainforest plants from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for chemical and biological prospecting of the plants; development of biological agents for pest and insect control, and the development of transgenic or genetically engineered plants.
ii) Individual countries
Much infrastructure building has occurred, and individual ASEAN member countries are initiating biotech projects through bilateral/multilateral agreements, for example, Thailand has three projects with Australian organisations. The projects are being undertaken at Thailand's National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. Collaborative projects with Canada, Malaysia, Japan, Belgium, Lao PDR and Vietnam have also been amalgamated.
iii) Asia-Pacific International Molecular Biology Network (A-IMBN)
The A-IMBN was established in 1997 to implement biotechnology across Asia. It involves collaboration between scientists, scientific institutions, national and international agencies, and industry. It was the brainchild of researchers at the Institute for Molecular Biology and Genetics at Seoul National University, and the Institute of Medical Science of Tokyo University. It is the successor of the failed Asian Molecular Biology Organisation established in 1980 by US scientists and Kenichi Arai, the current A-IMBN president (and also Director of the Institute of Medical Science of Tokyo University).
Participants include 243 scientists from the 15 nations of Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore. Nominations to join have been received from Thailand, Canada, the US, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
In 2000, the A-IMBN formulated a five-pronged vision.
1. infrastructure development across Asia
2. regulatory/cultural environment: to encourage biodevelopment, for example, intellectual property rights (IPR) regulations, attitudes, entrepreneurship
3. legislation and policies: to promote biotech, encourage careers and entrepreneurship
4. human resources development: to promote school and academic education
5. finance and resources mobilisation: national, international, and private funding, encouragement of investment, academia and industry links.
By 2001 it had begun the following initiatives:
* a media program involving training promising young journalists to present pro-biotech perspectives (under development)
* a public education program aimed at public acceptance of GM (under development)
* the preparation of information resources and materials for elementary and high school students
* encouragement of industry-academia collaborations
* the setting up of A-IMBN laboratories: the first one, with a biomedical focus, was set up in 2001 at Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.
iv) USAID's Agricultural Biotechnology Program
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) designed a program for agricultural biotechnology in 1990. With the help of the National Research Council of the US, priorities included institutional management issues, especially capacity to address IPR and biosafety. Building on that, the program was designed to disseminate biotechnology, focussing especially on management and technology transfer issues through private-public sector partnerships. By that time, USAID had gained experience through its support of the Monsanto-Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) program on disease-resistant sweet potato.
During the 1990s, USAID supported several private-public sector collaborations, largely through the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Program (ABSP) led by Michigan State University. The program involves a number of US universities, US and Southern companies, CGIAR centres, and NARS. Some examples include: ICI Seeds (Zeneca) and the Central Research Institute for Food Crops (CRIFC) Indonesia to develop Bt tropical corn; and, Pioneer Hi-Bred and the Egyptian Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute (AGERI) to develop Bt corn.
Complementing these activities are institutional capacity building in the areas of IPR, technology transfer, and biosafety. The ABSP's efforts in IPR have covered both plant variety protection and patent forms of the IPR. Michigan State University has so far served as the contractual intermediate on most research agreements between companies and public research institutions in the South.
v) FAO-Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI)
APAARI's mission is to promote the development of NARS in the Asia-Pacific region through inter-regional and inter-institutional cooperation. Its constitution was adopted in December 1990 by the General Assembly in its second meeting held at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP), Bangkok. Members include Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Philippines, Fiji, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Western Samoa.
During 2000-2001, APAARI signed a letter of agreement (LOA) with FAO-RAP wherein the FAO would provide financial assistance of US$20,000 in support of studies and a regional consultation relating to biotechnology with selected countries in Asia in close collaboration with APAARI (including a financial contribution of US$12,000). The studies would assess the biotechnology needs and capacity of Asian countries regarding the positive effects including areas of potential concern; policy advice, training and human resources development; identification of institutions and individuals involved in biotechnology. An expert consultation would be organised.
In March 2002, the FAO-APAARI Expert Consultation on the Status of Biotechnology in Agriculture in Asia and the Pacific March was held in Bangkok. The main objectives of the meeting were to assess biotechnology's positive effects and areas of concern; types of policy advocacy, information, training and capacity building to ensure biosafety standards; the identification of experts and institutions; and the reconfirmation of the needs for and requirements/arrangements for the establishment of a biotechnology network.
About 50 participants attended and they represented NARS, CGIAR centres, CG Institutions, NGOs, and the private sector, including Aventis, Monsanto and Syngenta. The TNCs emphasised that their businesses were trying to be socially responsible and spoke of the need for promoting greater public awareness of the issues linked to biotechnology use in agriculture. NGO representatives questioned the use of biotechnology to merely increase food production if this could not reach the hungry. They underlined the right to adequate, safe and culturally acceptable food, right to informed choice and right to democratic participation.
The meeting's four main recommendations were:
1. the need to evaluate the broader impact of biotechnology on society
2. biosafety and regulatory frameworks have to be established, and a consensus reached on which comes first, the regulatory framework or the technology or should it be a hand-in-hand approach?
3. private and public sector partnership for progress to be made
4. regional/international collaboration and capacity building
Later, in September 2002, a conference was held in Kuala Lumpur called 'Capitalise on Genetic Modification in the Food Industry: Profit from innovations and strategise to comply with upcoming government directives'. Sponsored by the Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre, the conference was specifically designed for the Malaysian market and its challenges. Ram Badan Singh, former Assistant Director-General & Regional Representative: Asia & the Pacific , FAO, gave a talk called 'Biotechnology and biosecurity: Towards an evergreen revolution'. He emphasised the 'need for establishing' a Regional Consortium on Biotechnology-Biosafety-Biodiversity-Biosecurity in the Asia-Pacific region, the details of which are under development at FAO-RAP.
His summary points about the consortium included: an overall thrust for biodevelopment, commodity based networks, adoption of proprietary biotech applications, and participatory multi-stakeholder approaches. Recommendations included the implementation of a 'National Commission on Biotechnology-Biosafety-Biodiversity-Biosecurity' in each country involving broad participation of all sectors of society and chaired by 'an independent expert in the field of biotechnology and related policy issues'. Regional data-bases would be set up to monitor crop productivity, production and ecological attributes (gene-pollution, ecological effect, use of pesticides and herbicides, emergence of pest resistance, impact on biodiversity).
First, given such exploration, we can better see the web of biointerests in, and converging on, Asia and Africa. Second, that GM infrastructure agents play a vital role in brokering private-public sectors to incubate the foundations for molecular empires and pave the way for GM giants, especially through national agricultural research programmes. Central infrastructure agents for biocolonisation include the Rockefeller Foundation, CGIAR centres, the World Bank; the African Rice Initiative, ASEAN, the A-IMBN, the FAO-RAP and APAARI, USAID, and national agricultural research systems (NARS).
Significantly, while much of the language of policy documents of the infrastructure agents pertains to aspects of environmental and social responsibility, no reference is given to other approaches to attain 'food security' etc, such as ecological agriculture, organic agriculture, community agriculture, peasant agriculture etc, and any inclusion in decision-making references of peasant movements, small farmers, or to genuine community participation is not apparent.
It can also be seen that many strategies that infrastructure agents in the South are adopting reflect current strategies of biotech interests in the North, where, of course, a central tactic is to disseminate such strategies in the South. For example, the strategies of the Asia-Pacific International Molecular Biology Network mimic those of Australia's 'National Biotechnology Strategy', which itself draws on US corporate-state policy initiatives, and TNC-state-bioscientist alliances in Australia. In this context, it is significant that senior members of the Australian biotech community are part of the A-IMBN, including 'Biotechnology Australia'-an agency within the Australian federal Department of Industry, Science and Resources-the implementer of the 'National Biotechnology Strategy'. Key phrases and terms in both Northern and Southern documents include 'innovation' and 'entrepreneur', which are hardly suitable cultural imperatives for the vast peasant and/or agricultural community based cultures of the South. Basically, we can see at play here a North Americanised or globalised biocolonialist strategy.
From this brief exploration, we can thus gain a better understanding of the scope of both the forces, and nature of pro-biotech campaigns, emerging in the South behind biodevelopment expansionism. These deeper 'behind the scenes' forces significantly contribute to laying the groundwork for DNA Inc. to expand its would-be molecular empire.
Finally, it is important to emphasise that a central part of the attempt to lay GM foundations across the South is to develop 'appropriate regulation'. Regulation has to be seen to be effective and accountable, primarily to counter civil society protest movements arising more effectively, that is, to foster public acceptance. Bioscientific interests though control of nearly all regulatory regimes in the North, and have been under intense attack by civil society organisations to open up to public interests for nearly three decades now. Given the pro-GM arguments that genetic engineering is low risk, clean and green, and that it works with nature, we must then ask, why are the elaborate and complex GM regulatory structures that exist in the North, and now proposed for the South, necessary? Pointing up this paradox is the proposal by Singh (above) that regional data bases should be set up to monitor crop productivity, production, and ecological attributes including gene-pollution, ecological effect, use of pesticides and herbicides, emergence of pest resistance, and impacts on biodiversity. Even with such serious impacts increasingly being recognised and questioned in the North, the grand GM field experiment is thus to be both transferred more to, and expanded in, the South. What will eventually follow? More promotion of the 'horse has bolted' arguments by GM TNCs that are now occurring in the North?
While those arguments represent serious consequences in the North (that have not yet been fully identified) the stakes are much higher in the South. Third World countries are already handicapped by indebtedness, ecological imbalance, uneven development, agricultural bifurcation, peripheralisation, and technological dependency. Social impacts of the green revolution included increased hunger, malnutrition, poverty, inequality, indebtedness, tenure displacement, landlessness, unemployment, cultural breakdown, genetic erosion, and ecological degradation. Now, due to the corporate bio-revolution, the danger is that these problems will escalate.
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[This paper was presented at the Peasant Scientist Conference Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28-30 September 2002]
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2. On 23 Oct 2002 at 10:49, Tahir Hasnain wrote:
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific
October 4, 2002
Peasants Scientists Unity Statement Presented to Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed at Official Opening of BIOMALAYSIA 2002
1st International Peasants Scientists Conference successfully concludes with Unity Statement Pledging to Strongly Challenge Corporate Dominated Science, and Proliferation of Agrochemical and Genetic Engineering Technologies
The Peasants Scientists Conference was convened in Kuala Lumpur, between September 27-30th, to foster and advance genuine People Centred Science analysis, understanding and networking between the Peasants Movements in Asia, and the Scientific and Academic community.
Assessing the impacts of Agrochemical use, the Conference particularly condemned the threats that pesticides continue to pose to human health, the environment, and impacts on peoples' (especially Peasant farmers) livelihoods. Participants also assessed the current use, impacts and threats posed by Genetic Engineering technologies, and strongly rejected the push of these technologies by corporations and governments in the region.
As such "We are very surprised and shocked that the Malaysian government is organizing BioMalaysia in light of increasing concerns being raised about the human health and environmental impacts of genetically engineered crops and food", commented Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director of PAN AP, on the launch of the BioMalaysia 2002 (October 1-4) event that was officiated by Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed. In his speech, the Premier himself articulated the need to strongly regulate the technology.
Sarojeni was amongst the 200 guests invited to the opening of BioMalaysia 2002 on October 1st, and took the opportunity to hand over the Peasants Scientists UNITY Statement to the Premiere. BioMalaysia 2002 and the proposed 'BioValley' aim to make Malaysia the hub for Biotechnology development, including genetic engineering technologies.
"There has been a lack of adequate studies to test these products, or the crops that are being commercialised. We call for a moratorium against genetically engineered organisms because of these concerns", stressed Sarojeni. "The other major concern is who will benefit from this? Is it the transnational corporations who see genetically engineered crops as another way of increasing their profits?", she challenged.
Dr. Michael Hansen, a Biologist and Ecological Entomologist, who is currently Research Associate with the New York based Consumer Policy Institute, said human safety testing of Bt crops has been completely inadequate. Various Bt endotoxins, including those from GM maize, cotton and potatoes may have adverse effects on the immune system. Increasing evidence from epidemiological and laboratory studies also show that those endotoxins are also likely human allergens.
Insect-resistant crops have been engineered to produce substances that kill or repel insect pests. Virtually all such crops contain a modified gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which causes the plant to produce an active form of an endotoxin throughout the plant, including leaves and fruit.
Dr. Hansen has testified at hearings in Washington, D.C. and nine other U.S. states, and Canada on biotechnology and related issues, and has prepared comments on various proposed U.S. governmental rules and regulations on biotechnology issues.
Recent studies commissioned by the Food Standard Agency of the United Kingdom have shown that some transgenes in GM (genetically modified) food may survive digestion in the gut, Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher said. The studies raised potentially serious health questions because many of the GM crops have been inserted with antibiotic-resistant marker genes and if those marker genes find its way into the human stomach, it would compromise antibiotic resistance.
A biologist and geneticist Dr. Steinbrecher has worked on gene regulation and gene expression since 1982. Over the last 6 years she has taken part in numerous Government consultations regarding the safety research and release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the establishment of European and national laws and regulations.
Concerns among the scientific community of the increasing corporate influence and control of science, and technology development, was also tackled at the Conference. As noted by Irene Fernadez, Coordinator of local workers rights organisation Tenaganita, "more and more scientists, in their search for the truth, now believe we need to move towards the strengthening and expansion of science of, and for, the people. It was indeed motivating that scientists present at the Conference formed a network that will challenge corporate science and agriculture".
Ms. Kim Jai Ok, President of the Citizens Alliance for Consumer Protection of Korea (CACPK) stressed the need for consumers to be wary of claims of safety with regards to GM food. "People think that they are getting safe food but we cannot just take the words of the companies." With consumers in Korea, Japan and Europe refusing to accept GM foods she also questioned the wisdom of countries intending to invest millions in Biotechnology development involving genetic engineering.
Meanwhile Dr Romeo Quijano, Professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the College of Medicine, University of the Philippines in Manila, who shared his recent experiences of the tragic pesticides impacts in the Philippines and India, commended the Malaysian government for being the first in Asia to ban paraquat. "Even the US government had yet to take the initiative to ban this pesticide,'' he said.
Commenting on the successful conclusion of Peasants Scientists Conference Dr. Quijano said, "The peasant struggle for land and social justice is truely stengthened by this partnership with people oriented scientists".
Concurring with Dr. Quijano, Peasant Movement of the Philippines chairman Rafael Mariano said, "The Conference is a significant advancement of the peoples struggle for land and food without poisons. This partnership of people-oriented scientists will confront and expose corporate science and their anti-people scientists, and expose unwanted technologies such as genetically engineered foods and pesticides. With the help of this kind of partnerships, the peoples movement will eventually prevail."
Peasant groups from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippine have vehemently protested the field testing of genetically altered crops in their countries because they view these technologies as a new wave of damaging technologies that they have had to bitterly struggle through during the Green Revolution.
Participants also assessed structural issues, as in the impacts of globalization and institutions such as the WTO, World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and strongly challenged the transnational corporations (TNCs), especially the agro-chemical TNCs that were controlling and promoting hazardous technologies at the expense of peoples lives and livelihoods. "We oppose the WTO, trade liberalisation and globalisation! All that we have seen is the dumping of foods and the introduction of hazardous technologies. In Tamilnadu the use of pesticides has increased, which has poisoned people--especially the women who spray pesticides--and destroyed soil fertility", explained Fatima Burnad of the Society for Rural Education (SRED). As more seed companies are bought up by these giant corporations, "farmers are forced to buy seeds from companies like Monsanto and are not able to save their own seeds". "We have to preserve our own seeds, and to hold on to our lands to feed our communities. We don't want pesticides! We don't want GMO seeds and food!" she strongly concluded.
The Conference ended with the aforementioned UNITY Statement and Plan of Action, which stressed that, "Corporate agriculture and food processing underpinned by distorted or flawed science has promoted monocultures, pesticides, and has now introduced genetically engineered organisms. This agriculture destroys the environment and people's lives".
The 4-day Peasant Scientist Conference, held from September 27 to Sept 30 at the Asia Pacific Development Centre in Kuala Lumpur, attracted 95 participants from Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Malaysia.
Participants included representatives from the most significant Peasants Movements in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Nepal, Scientists from as far afield as the US, and the UK, as well as local and regional NGOs, and representatives of Consumer organizations. It was organized by PAN AP together with ERA Consumer, Tenaganita, and the Malaysian Programme on Sustainable Agriculture and Pesticides (MP SAP).
For more information contact:
Jennifer Mourin, PAN AP Media Coordinator
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific
P.O. Box: 1170, 10850, Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: 604-657 0271 / 656 0381 Fax: 604-657 7445
I. Brief backgrounder to BioMalaysia: "With its vast bio-resources, Malaysia promotes the development of modern biotechnology involving genetic engineering techniques based on multidisciplinary integration of microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry and biochemical engineering. International recognised as one of the world's top 12 mega centers for biodiversity, Malaysia is well-positioned as and ideal location for the development of biotechnology clusters. Malaysia seeks investment projects which will contribute to the development of modern biotechnology." Source: http://www.nbbnet.gov.my/bioMalaysia/news7.htm
II. The bacterium itself has long been used, especially by organic farmers, as a relatively harmless natural insecticide. But in the genetically engineered Bt crops which continuously produce Bt endotoxin, it can quickly speed up the process of the spread of genetic resistance to the Bt endotoxin among the pests feeding on the crops. Scientists predict that Bt could become relatively useless, however, within a few years of widespread planting of Bt crops. If resistance to Bt becomes widespread, then organic farmers would have few alternative pesticides to control pests formerly controlled by Bt, while conventional farmers would have to turn to more toxic pesticides, thereby potentially leading to increased levels of pesticide residues.
Peasant Scientists UNITY Statement is attached below.
1st International Peasant Scientist Conference, 28-30 September, 2002 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
UNITY STATEMENT AND PLAN OF ACTION
We, the delegates of the 1st International Peasant Scientist Conference unite to strengthen peasant scientist partnerships to ensure that science and technology serves the interests and needs of the people. Science of and for the people calls for partnerships between scientists and peasants, indigenous, and other marginalized, exploited, and threatened communities. This people's science will challenge the abuse and domination of science and knowledge whether by corporations, military, governments, research or other institutions.
The people's movements are now strongly resisting globalization, with its ever-worsening and devastating impacts and the rapid advancement of corporate agriculture on peasant livelihoods, health, the environment, food security and sovereignty. Corporate agriculture and food processing underpinned by distorted or flawed science has promoted monocultures, pesticides, and has now introduced genetically engineered organisms. This agriculture destroys the environment and people's lives.
We are thus committed to unmasking corporate propaganda and tactics of domination, harassment, and repression. We challenge our institutions and universities to be free from corporate control; to develop genuine people-centered science curricula and programmes; and to promote and develop community-based research.
We also challenge and expose governments who are equally liable and subservient to external influence.
We recognize the important role scientists have to play in reorienting their contribution away from serving the interests of profit over the interests of life.
PLAN OF ACTION
We will monitor, expose and challenge the influence of TNCs on governments.
We challenge the co-option of NGOs and institutions by corporations.
We will intensify media outreach to highlight the people's protest against pesticides and genetically engineered organisms.
We assert the strong precautionary principle in protecting human health and the environment.
We will establish exchange programmes between and amongst peasants and scientists to strengthen each other's capacity.
We commit ourselves to establish a strong network of scientists and peasants who are ready to respond to the expressed needs of communities.
We resolve to work for a moratorium and a ban, if necessary, on the environmental release and commercialization of genetically engineered organisms.
We pledge to work to sensitize and raise the consciousness of peasants and scientists to promote the agenda of science and technology of and for the people.
To achieve community food security and sovereignty, we pledge to work for ecological, sustainable and self-sufficient approaches, practices and systems.
We are confident from experience that these approaches will sufficiently meet the food requirements of all people.
We will work towards the recognition of women's contribution in agriculture, women's access and control of land and productive and reproductive resources, as well as the equitable leadership of women in people's movements.
We will work towards enhancing and conserving biodiversity, and local and indigenous knowledge.
We call for no patents on life forms and indigenous knowledge systems.
We pledge to delegitimize all instruments of globalisation and will build local, national, regional and global movements of resistance to this.
We work towards a Convention on Food Sovereignty that is defined by the people's movement.
We unite to observe a day of action yearly against poisons and genetically engineered organisms in food and agriculture.
We will uphold the rights of peasants, agricultural and other workers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, women, indigenous peoples, Dalits, urban poor, children, and other marginalized and exploited sectors.
We join the struggle for genuine agrarian reform that upholds peasants' right to land and other productive resources. We uphold the rights of indigenous peoples over their ancestral or communal land and livelihood resources.
We pledge to work through the Sustainable Agriculture Movement in Asia and scientists network to strengthen the people's movements for land, food and water without poisons.
Scientists include academics
Indigenous peoples include tribals
Dalits are landless, treated as untouchables, discriminated all over the world.