1 January 2003
WORLD BANK AT IT AGAIN
The AgBioIndia Bulletin
Presenting the Real Picture
01 January 2003
CONTROVERSY: WORLD BANK AT IT AGAIN
1. World Bank Consultative Meeting about a Global Agricultural Science and Technology Assessment -- Views from international CSOs.
2. Appeal to Greenpeace, Oxfam, ActionAid and others to withdraw from the consultation process
>From 6 - 8 November 2002, the World Bank, with support from the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food, convened the first meeting of a global consultative process at Dublin to determine the need for and possible scope of a proposed international assessment of the role of agricultural science and technology in reducing hunger, improving rural livelihoods and stimulating economic growth over the coming decades. Management of the process within the World Bank has been given to Robert Watson, World Bank Chief Scientist, credited with the achievements, among others, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Additional co-chairs are Louise Fresco (ADG, Agriculture, FAO), Rita Sharma (Govt. of India), Claudia Martinez Zuleta (Govt. of Colombia) and Sefu Ketema (ASARECA, Ethiopia).
The reasons for this process presented by the co-chairs are that "the global community confronts an enormous challenge: stimulating economic growth in rural areas where 75% of the very poor currently reside, and ensuring the nutritional security of a world population that is growing in size and evolving in consumption patterns, without intensifying environmental degradation, social inequity or adverse consequences for human health."
Watson and the co-chairs proposed an 8 month consultation process about the need and design of such an assessment, which would be followed by the assessment itself from the end of 2003 up to the beginning 2006. The consultation would be conducted in a series of regional meetings, electronic fora and video-conferences, steered by a committee of 40, which should represent all interested parties and guarantee the openness and inclusivity of the process as well as make final recommendations regarding the scope and organisation of the assessment itself.
The acceptance to particpate in the consultation process by some ten international NGOs -- and that includes Greenpeace, Oxfam, ActionAid, Consumer International and ITDG -- has evoked anger in India. Lok Pakhya, a respected Orissa-based NGO, was quick to react, circulating an appeal to stop the NGOs from 'collaborating' with the biotech companies and organisations like the World Bank to define the research and development agenda for the future and that too on behalf of the developing countries.
The international NGOs, which participated in the Dublin meet, have presented a report of the events as it developed. We also bring you the appeal that was put up by Lok Pakhya.
1. World Bank consultative meeting about a global agricultural science and technology assessment, Dublin 6 - 8 November, 2002
Views from international CSOs participating in the Dublin meeting
Nearly 100 people attended. They came predominantly from UN organisations, World Bank and CGIAR, national governments and agencies, research organisations and parastatal organisations, both North and South. Less than 10 were from international CSOs - environment, development and consumer. Few participants came from southern civil society. No smallholder farmers' organisations, pastoralists or fisherfolk were represented. International agro-chemical corporations dominated the few private sector participants.
The meeting was structured into plenary sessions chaired by Bob Watson and 4 breakout groups, chaired by the other co-chairs. These focused on 'Key questions and scope of the assessment' and 'Organisational options for the assessment' and regional discussions. The discussion focussed on the proposed initial consultative process over the next 6 to 8 months to determine the scope, governance and organisation of the proposed full assessment.
Repeatedly, CSO interventions were made that emphasised:
[the need to consider all knowledge systems and science views (including farmer-driven science) and technologies for agriculture, and its relationship to food sovereignty;
[that the consultations should be structured and driven by the needs and demands of agricultural producers and consumers in developing countries, not the interests of global science and technology providers
[to include, deliberately, the views of the poor producers themselves - the marginal smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk and to design appropriate forms of their participation to this end
[to include a critical retrospective view of the contribution of science and technology to the present state of food, agriculture and agroecosystems. [to focus not just on short-term technological options but also on a longer term view of how 'science and technology' could make a positive contribution to the livelihoods of the very poor in particular and all food producers in general, and maximise, maintain or restore agroecosystem functions to support their production systems and for the public good;
[that the composition of the Steering Committee must be more representative of Civil Society and social movements, producers and all realms of the private sector
[that there must not be a hidden agenda to sell specific technologies, especially genetic engineering, under the pretext of such an inclusive and broad assessment]
Many stakeholders, including CSOs as well as industry, were probably ambiguous about whether the whole initiative had a chance to be taken further, which will also depend on appropriate funding and institutional commitments and if so whether it would or would not be useful for their respective causes.
There was little mention of any specific technologies with the notable exception of "biotechnology", which many were anxious to point out should not be at the focus and not form the "hidden agenda" of the exercise. However, agroecosystem approaches and agroecological systems were mentioned by many
No consensus was reached nor formal decisions and commitments made by the participants as a whole. Ian Johnson on behalf of the World Bank, however, in the final plenary committed to initiate and specify the regional consultative process. The Bank undertook to make this an open process that would consider all technologies, knowledge systems and science views, be deliberately inclusive of all key groups in all regions including resource-poor farmers, herders and fisherfolk, and with no preconception of what technology outcomes are desired. The assessment will take a long view, building on an historical assessment of the contribution of science and technology to the current state of food and agriculture in the world. Johnson summarised that he had heard two overwhelming themes coming out of the meeting, one on process and one on substance of the issues.
[First, if there is any suggestion that the process is not totally open and inclusive then the CSOs would have every right to walk away from the process.
[Secondly, the assessment must focus on agriculture and agroecosystems writ large, i.e. an agro-ecological perspective that includes the whole value chain and includes environmental and social responsibility especially to small farmers, herders and fisherfolk in the South.]
The initial Consultative Process over the next 8 months would be overseen by a Steering Committee of about 40+ people including, at least, the Co-chairs (5), Governments (12), Private sector entities (4), Foundations (2 observers), Non-governmental organisations (4), Consumer and farmer organisations (2+4), at-large scientists (2), Scientific institutions (4), International agencies (4), UN conventions (2). It was noted that the composition should also reflect an appropriate balance between genders and regions and within the different groups (notably the entire food chain within the private sector), some of which may want to form additional, broader reference groups.
A proposal for the committee's exact composition and numbers (indicated in brackets) will be presented by the co-chairs, who will also lay down their conclusions from the Dublin meeting and make a more detailed proposal for the regional consultations.
As to the desirable scope and questions for the assessment, there were no clear agreements and conclusions drawn as this would be up to the consultative process itself. This helped to ease the different approaches of participants at this point in the process. Many emphasised the need to interlink and combine this initiative with other ongoing international and regional discussions on a similar subject. Regarding the appropriate organisation and governance of the assessment itself, probably a majority of participants would aim at a formal intergovernmental structure with strong participation by all interested parties.
The overall impression is that the majority of participants cautiously welcomed the initiative and were supportive of its further development, while not many crucial details were actually resolved. It will be up to the initial organisers to draw conclusions and take the right steps to get the project going and find sufficient initial funding and support.
CONDITIONAL CSO CONCLUSIONS
At this point of the discussion we conclude:
1. It will be up to each individual and organisation to judge whether participation in the consultative process is seen to be important and promising for the promotion of their goals, what priority this could have in their work and what conditions would have to be met to this end.
2. The discussions held in Dublin do suggest that the organisers intentions are sincere and open and that there is a commitment especially to include all those which have not been present or underrepresented at this initial meeting.
3. The different participants of this meeting obviously have their own agendas, interests and motivations regarding Science and Technology and the fight against poverty and hunger. These interests are diverse and in many ways are also incompatible. It would be naÃ¯ve to suggest that these interests will not influence the setting, inclusiveness and future path of both the consultations now proceeding and the assessment, which might be conducted as a result.
4. Whether the assessment will provide a fair and promising opportunity for all interested parties to contribute will ultimately depend on whether the right questions will be asked and on the way answers to these questions will be sought, discussed and validated. That in turn will strongly depend on who participates in this consultation process and who will draw the conclusions from it
5. The next milestones of the consultative process will be
a. the setting up and the composition of a steering committee that has a fair and inclusive representation of all interested parties
b. the setting up and agenda of the regional meetings, conferences and fora
c. the fair and adequate facilitation of participation in the consultations by all relevant interested parties. This will require resourcing to correct for the unfair and unequal distribution of financial and human resources available to the different interested groups
If the process is as open as described, environment and development organisations would consider engaging with the initial consultative process, otherwise not. An initial indicator will be the report of the meeting and the proposed composition of the Steering Committee as well as the design and sponsorship of the regional consultations.
Only if adequate conditions are met and we believe it will lead towards an outcome that would indeed serve the priorities for equity and justice of the majority of food producers - smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk - would we continue to participate further in this proposed assessment process. The international CSOs present are keen to discuss their approach further with other interested CSOs and social movements. ----------------
2. Appeal to Greenpeace, Oxfam, Actionaid and others to withdraw from the consultation process
December 15, 2002
(A Sequel to the November 14, 2002 Appeal)
We bring below an update on the issue. But before we detail out our views we would like to present a brief summary of the update:
Both Oxfam and Greenpeace have denied having entered into any collaboration with Monsanto and Syngenta or any other MNC involved in GMOs. But there has been no categorical statement that Oxfam and Greenpeace do not accept GM technology. Further both have more or less defended their participation in the Dublin meeting. They are obviously not keen to appreciate the fact that the presence of Oxfam and Greenpeace shall give immense credibility to the so called global consultations and ultimately Monsanto shall succeed in pushing GM technology on the public agenda no matter what view is expressed by Oxfam or Greenepeace.
Oxfam's response suggests that it has accepted GM technology and is only concerned about its implications in the developing countries because of some specific conditions prevailing in that part of the world. Thus according to Oxfam if those conditions can be well addressed then there shall be no problem in using GMOs in developing countries. In this context it is important to note that in the just concluded London Food Congress, a very important international event, while almost all speakers spoke either for or against GMOs the Oxfam representative Jeremy Hobbs Executive Director, Oxfam did not express any opinion on GMOs. How does one interpret this silence! We reiterate that acceptance of GM technology amounts to falling in the laps of Monsanto and Syngenta. If Oxfam is not concerned with the GM technology then Monsanto and Syngenta have actually found an appropriate organization to engage on the issue of GM technology.
Attending a meeting is quite different. But by getting engaged on a long-term basis and that too on a global scale, it is but certain that these organizations, the World Bank, Monsanto, Syngenta would gain credibility and which will pave the way for their success in their endeavour to spread GM foods no matter whether Greenpeace or Oxfam or Action-Aid agree to their views or not. The ultimate gainer will be Monsanto. Thus we once again request all responsible organizations to withdraw from this collaboration/consultation.
We sincerely request all responsible organizations, which claim to be working for the interest of food security, safe environment, good health and peace for the entire humanity, to withdraw from any consultation or collaboration with Monsanto and Syngenta.
At the end we would request friends and concerned persons who have been forwarding our mails to their contacts also to express their views on this matter (which is of great importance to the future of all life forms). With this we also request Greenpeace and Oxfam to consider our views seriously.
Our response in detail follows.
With thanks and regards
Rajendra Sarangi and Sudhir Pattnaik
1.Need for an Update:
Since we sent our appeal dated November 14, 2002 we have received some responses. We are attaching some new information on the matter and some of the responses to our appeal, as indicated below, so that all those who have received the November 14 Note could accordingly update their information on the matter:
i. The Plan for Global Consultation was Hatched in Johannesburg (Annexure-1)
ii. Oxfam's Response (Annexure-2)
iii. Scotland decides to halt GM crops research trials (Annexure-3)
iv. What Jeremy Hobbs of Oxfam said in the Inaugural World Food and Farming Congress during Nov 25-26, 2002.held at London. (Annexure-4)
v. Greenpeace's Response (Annexure-5 and Annexure-6)
vi. Syngenta caught in the Act and then Withdraws (Annexure-7)
2.Plan for Global Consultation was Hatched in Johannesburg:
After we sent the November 14, 2002 appeal we further looked into the several reports sent by the AgBioIndia Network on the WSSD Summit at Johannesburg. In fact one report dated September 3, 2002 (Annexure-1) says that the World Bank at the WSSD summit itself hatched the plan for the so-called Global Consultation. After the African nations rejected GM Food as Aid and insisted that the food grains being offered by the USA be milled before sending to the Recipient Countries the American delegation and the World Bank officials were terribly disturbed. They believed the African nations' refusal to receive GM Food, as Aid was a decisive blow to the champions of GM technology. Thus World Bank was quick to announce that genetic modification (GM) and other controversial farming techniques will face an international scientific jury to see if they are safe. And to silence opposition against GM the World bank has in fact gone a step further to include Organic farming and other natural resource management issues in the so called international assessment to review the science on issues like GM crops, irrigation, and organics, to help governments decide which technologies to use and which to avoid.
Thus it becomes clear that the Dublin meeting organized by World Bank is in fact a follow-up of the decision taken at Johannesburg. This World Bank 's ploy to establish an international panel to review the science on issues like GM crops, irrigation, and organics is a well-crafted move to garner support through means perfected over the years by the bank. The strategy is simple. Engage the opposition in a debate which gives credibility to the their efforts and then through such consultation process mobilize many other yes men/women to achieve public acceptance of what they want.
It would be therefore not wise to feel that the WSSD just only failed to develop any consensus strategy for sustainable development. In fact the WSSD not only failed in emerging consensus it has led to the dangerous strategy of World Bank of launching the so-called global consultation on GM technology.
3.Our Views on the Oxfam's Response:
At the outset we are thankful to Oxfam for responding (Annexure-2) to Lok Pakhya's appeal. This only proves that Oxfam continues to honour public opinion. We would like to thank Oxfam for clarifying that " Oxfam GB is not collaborating with Monsanto or any other MNC on GM products". It needs to be clarified whether only Oxfam GB or all Oxfam organizations in different countries are not collaborating with Monsanto or any other MNC on GM products. Further can it be assumed that Oxfam shall never collaborate with those responsible for development and the spread of GM technology? In fact Oxfam's response if carefully analysed leads to a number of doubts, which needs clarification. We bring below our views on some of the important aspects of the Oxfam's response.
Before coming to our comments we want to clarify that the sole purpose of this exercise is to put pressure on Oxfam to remain away from the emerging global collaboration on GMOs.
3.1 On the Important Aspects of the Oxfam's Response:
In the following paragraphs we have summarized the major points from the Oxfam's response followed with Our View.
3.1.1 Oxfam and Greenpeace are not the Only NGOs and Many Indians Also Participated:
Oxfam confirms that it has actually participated in the meeting at Dublin along with a number of Indians, including Rita Sharma from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture, Nita Pallai of Consumer International and Usha Zehy from Mahyco. There were also representatives from Action-Aid, ITDG, DFID etc.
We are clear that there is no harm in discussing with anybody, even with enemies. But the important point is who has organized the meeting and for what purpose. From what is known it is the World Bank officials, disturbed by the unusual solidarity amongst African nations for rejection of GM Foods as food aid, who have planned for such global consultations. Their purpose is obvious and needs no further reiteration. The World Bank directly and indirectly works for protecting the interests of the corporate sector and in this regard for the interests of the Giant Food MNCs of USA and other developed countries. Thus any organization or personality joining this consultation process would be viewed with suspicion till they make their stand clear.
Thus if Oxfam or other NGOs are of the view that joining the consultations is of importance then the first thing that they must do is to publicly state in no uncertain terms that the GM Technology is a technology that threatens life and puts enormous powers in the hands of too few a people and its use should never be allowed and the Governments of all countries separately and together should devise ways and means to ensure that none is allowed to use such a dangerous technology. The objective of Monsanto and other MNCs engaged in development and use of GM technology is well known. Their only objective is to make profits, more profits and still more profits. They have no concern for the well being of the human race. The only thing that they are expected to worry about is that during the immediate future the negative effects of their work should not be detected by the society. They definitely do not have any long-term concern as regards the welfare of humanity.
>From experience it is well one can definitely say that such consultations are deliberately organized to manufacture consensus around the interest of the strong. The question that therefore emerges is whether it makes any meaning to join such consultations.
We have no hesitation in including in our appeal the name of Action-Aid and herewith appeal all those who know or have relation with Action-Aid to put sufficient pressure so that Action-Aid withdraws from such global consultations on GM Technology.
We do not understand why Oxfam has chosen to indicate that there were several Indians in the meeting. It is interesting to note that the Indian Agriculture Ministry was represented. After allowing Bt cotton the Govt. of India is perhaps preparing it self for developing a suitable climate for introduction of other Monsanto GM seeds. With several Indian Agriculture Universities continuing trials and research on GM seeds, amidst protests from Indian farmers, the presence of Ministry of Agriculture representative is in no case gives any guarantee for the protection of the interests of the Indian farmers. As regards Usha Zehy from Mahyco, it is common knowledge that Mahyco is the Indian conduit of Monsanto. In fact Monsanto owns significant % of shares in Mahyco. We are not aware about work of Nita Pallai of Consumer International. But it is important to mention that our intention of raising the issue of GM technology is not to deliberate on the interests of India, rather we strongly believe that the GM technology is an Issue of global dimensions and we are concerned about the use of GM technology anywhere across the world (North and South, Rich and Poor).
3.1.2 The Dublin Meeting is the First Meeting:
Oxfam's view is that the Dublin meeting was the first meeting to discuss a global consultation process for an international assessment on the role of agricultural science and technology (biotech, intensification, organic farming, NRM etc.) in reducing hunger and improving rural livelihoods; and to put agriculture back on public agenda. Oxfam goes on to question " What is wrong with that".
>From Oxfam's response it appears that the World Bank has programmed a series of meetings across the world as a part of the so-called global consultation process on GM technology. Thus those who are concerned about such a process must keep vigil across the world and should ensure that all those organizations that have the capacity to influence public opinion and are working as developmental organizations are pressurized to boycott such a process.
Further it is interesting to note the stated purpose of the so-called global consultation process. The stated purpose of the global consultation process is to "launch an international assessment on the role of agricultural science and technology (biotech, intensification, organic farming, NRM etc.) in reducing hunger and improving rural livelihoods; and to put agriculture back on public agenda". Organic farming is as old as the human civilization. Food production based on organic practices have been the only basis of feeding the world till chemical agriculture was developed, in the 19th century, for deriving profits out of chemicals. We wonder what is there to assess as regards the role of organic farming. What is required is to implement and promote programmes based on organic agriculture. Natural Resource Management (NRM) has always been of immense importance to all the civilizations of the world, as man has always realized that a balanced natural resource environment is essential to all life forms and more so for humans. Different communities have evolved different methods and practices to manage and conserve natural resources. This has pervaded all cultures, all civilizations and all nations. All of us know from when natural resources were treated as a commodity for making profits. Thus there is no use for assessing the role of NRM now. Instead assessment should be made as to the causes of depletion of natural resources and take bold steps to ensure that the existing natural resources are not depleted any further.
We wonder about the commitment of the important economic powers of the world (Governments of Developed Nations, Corporate Bodies and Institutions) as regards any thing concerning rural economy. We say this because day in and day out, the rural part of every country including that of the developed nations are being disturbed with an aim to spread urbanization. We do not know when did World Bank and UNO have even begin questioning this policy of rapid urbanization.
Talking of putting "Agriculture back on the public agenda" is in fact the key aspect of the proposed international assessment. And all those who are concerned about the growing power of a few multinational companies over food production and distribution must now rise strongly against this so-called attempt to put "Agriculture back on the public agenda". In fact what is meant by this cleverly worded statement is that the countries of the world should now focus on the GE revolution and engage in large scale investments and operations in GE technology and GE products on a world-wide scale.
Normally no one should raise objection to a global consultation process on agriculture if the real objective is to put agriculture back on the public agenda. In fact agriculture should always remain top most on the public agenda and it is required to probe the reasons as to why it had gone off the public agenda at the first place. What is actually wrong is that this so-called global consultation process is aimed at putting "GM technology and its products on the public agenda on a world-wide scale" in a disguised form.
The AgBioIndia mailing list is an effort by the Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security to bridge the yawning gap in our understanding of the politics of food. We believe this mailing list will create wider awareness and understanding of the compexities of the crisis facing Indian agriculture and food security. This list will keep you posted on the intricacies and games being enacted in the name of eradicating hunger. It is a non-commercial educational service for non-profit organisations and individuals. Subscribers are welcome to contribute information. You can view previous issues at http://www.agbioindia.org/archive.asp