19 May 2003
Monsanto and WTO/US pushing GMOs 'institutionally' in India
The way in which the US is seeking to embed GM crops in the South is well illustrated by the Indo-US Agricultural Biotechnology Conference reported on in item 2:
"The [department of biotechnology (DBT)] secretary, Dr Manju Sharma expressed her happiness after the conclusion of three-day Indo-US Agricultural Biotechnology Conference in Delhi on Saturday and said 'all efforts of concerned organisations should be converged in setting up of the institutional framework.' The three day conference was jointly organised by the DBT, ICAR, NCPGR, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP-II) of the US, Indo-US Science & Technology Forum and the USAID. This seminar was a part of the recent US attempts to rope in developing countries for promoting transgenic technology in agriculture."
1.Monsanto and WTO: Just the man.../Rufus Yerxa Biography/conflict of interest at the WTO?
2.India To Institutionalise GM Crops
1.Monsanto and WTO
Just the man...
When the US takes its trade case on GMOs to the WTO, one person who will have a role is the Director General's deputy, Rufus Yerxa, a former US ambassador to Gatt, the WTO's predecessor, and international counsel to Monsanto. At the time of his appointment the Financial Times described him as "just the man [the WTO Director General] will need should the US ever bleat to the WTO about EU restrictions on genetically modified food." http://ngin.tripod.com/210802c.htm
Rufus Yerxa Biography
Rufus Yerxa is Monsanto's Chief Counsel and Head of Government Public Affairs for Europe. Previously he served as US Ambassador to the GATT in Geneva and as Chief Deputy USTR during the 1st Clinton Administration, when he played a key role in the Uruguay Round Negotiations. He was also a Partner in the Brussels Office of Akin Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld, specialising in EC and International Trade Matters. http://www.jus.uio.no/lm/cm.conferences/ih.and.tr_2001.html#to232
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 17:45:27 -0400
Subject: Re: Digest Number 260
GMOs--conflict of interest, real or apparent, at the WTO?
An interesting side issue concerning the case that the US and others are now bringing at the WTO against the EC on GMOs, is that of conflict of interest in the WTO Secretariat.
Rufus Yerxa, the most senior legal official at the WTO, to whom the legal affairs division reports according to the Secretariat Org Chart, worked as European then International Counsel for Monsanto immediately before being appointed to his WTO post, or so indicates his cv on the WTO web site.
A significant number of Monsanto products are listed in the annex to the US letter requesting consultations with the EC.
Mr. Yerxa is the ultimate boss of the legal affairs division at the WTO, which in a number of ways may influence the proceedings if a panel goes ahead on GMOs--including involvement in the selection of panelists, legal advice to the panelists, advice in the identification and selection of outside scientific "experts" in the case.
According to Rules of conduct for the understanding on rules and procedures governing the settlement of disputes, including Secretariat officials assisting in respect of DS proceedings are covered by the following Governing Principle:
"1. Each person covered by these Rules (as defined in paragraph 1 of Section IV below and hereinafter called "covered person") shall be independent and impartial, shall avoid direct or indirect conflicts of interest and shall respect the confidentiality of proceedings of bodies pursuant to the dispute settlement mechanism, so that through the observance of such standards of conduct the integrity and impartiality of that mechanism are preserved. These Rules shall in no way modify the rights and obligations of Members under the DSU nor the rules and procedures therein."
I invite list members to consider how this Governing Principle might apply to Mr. Yerxa in respect of the GM0s case. A threshold issue is whether Mr. Yerxa is a covered person--the exact wording of the Rules of conduct could lead to a negative inference--he isn't a secretariat member singled out to assist in the particular dispute. On the other hand, as the "top boss" he has unparalleled potential scope to control and direct the work of such secretariat members.
If the Governing Principle does cover him, does the requirement to "avoid direct or indirect conflicts of interest" require that a kind of Chinese wall be created whereby Mr. Yerxa doesn't engage in communications with members of the legal affairs division staff in relation to the case, or is a more stringent approach needed?
There is also an issue of disclosure: the disclosure requirements in the rules of conduct are to say the least not very detailed. Would they extend, assuming Mr. Yerxa is a "covered person", to stating whether he currently holds any Monsanto shares or share options?
Even if Mr. Yerxa is not a "covered person", there is of course the policy question of whether the integrity of the dispute settlement system requires nevertheless that the appearance of a potential conflict of interest be addressed. I stress that this is to say nothing at all concerning Mr. Yerxa's own personal integrity--I met him once, and he seemed to me a very fine gentleman indeed, and friends of mine have high praise for his character. It is the systemic issue that is worthy of reflection by list members, I believe.
2.India To Institutionalise GM Crops
Ashok B Sharma
Commodity Watch, Financial Express http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=34530
New Delhi, May 18: India has decided to set up an institutional framework for promoting researches and applications of transgenic crops. This institutional framework would channelise the expected assistance from the United States meant for promoting transgenic crops in the country.
Institutions like the department of biotechnology (DBT), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), National Centre for Plant Genome Research (NCPGR) and Indo-US Science and Technology Forum will jointly work for setting up this proposed institutional framework.
The DBT secretary, Dr Manju Sharma expressed her happiness after the conclusion of three-day Indo-US Agricultural Biotechnology Conference in Delhi on Saturday and said 'all efforts of concerned organisations should be converged in setting up of the institutional framework.' The three day conference was jointly organised by the DBT, ICAR, NCPGR, Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP-II) of the US, Indo-US Science & Technology Forum and the USAID. This seminar was a part of the recent US attempts to rope in developing countries for promoting transgenic technology in agriculture.
Presenting an overview of the US approach, the USAID's biotechnology adviser, Dr Bhavani Pathak said that that the American interest is embedded within the larger goals of agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition in the developing countries. Under the ABSP-I, the US has been rendering support for technology and policy development in different countries and core support to the CGIAR system particularly for the development of 'Golden Rice'. The ABSP-I has also supported collaborative research projects and individual research projects like that for rinderpest and heartwater vaccines for Africa. In India the ABSP has been assisting in the development of beta carotene 'Golden' Mustard Seeds.
He said that the ABSP-II is a part of the collaborative agricultural biotechnology (CABIO) initiative. Other areas of CABIO activities are for supporting research innovations, public and private sector infrastructure, capacity building, scientific training, programme for biosafety systems and safeguarding intellectual property rights. He also made it clear that the US does not intend to pressurise any country in developing a particular biosafety and IPR system.
Prof Vernon E Gracen of the department of plant breeding, Cornell University, US, however stressed the importance of undertaking detailed study in functional genomics before embarking on development of transgenic crops. He said such a detailed study can help to ensure the health and environmental safety of genetically modified crops. He suggested that after the successful sequencing of rice genome, the scientists should concentrate on the study of functional genomics of rice.
Participating in the discussions the director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Dr S Nagarajan expressed a different view. He said that malnutrition problems cannot be solved by GM crops alone. Cultivation of traditional varieties of millets, pulses and horticulture crops should be encouraged. IARI is a part of the ICAR system in the country.