Protesters March on Global Food Conference
2.Californian Protesters March on Global Food Conference
Biotech Conference Opens in Calif.
The Guardian, Tuesday June 24, 2003
By KIM BACA, Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - An international biotechnology conference began Monday with the U.S. agriculture secretary hailing genetically modified food as a tool to reduce global hunger and demonstrators outside decrying it as a health threat.
Eleven protesters were arrested as more than 1,500 people marched in the streets of the state capital at the start of the three-day event.
Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman told agriculture ministers, scientists and health care experts from 120 countries that biotechnology can help developing nations reduce hunger while improving nutrition and their economies.
``Biotechnology is already helping both small and large-scale farmers around the world by boosting yields, lowering costs, reducing pesticide use and making crops more resistant to disease, pests and drought,'' Veneman said.
Demonstrators claim biotechnology isn't the antidote to complex global food problems and say the conference is a means for the United States to lower trade barriers and expand the use of genetically altered crops.
They rallied on the steps of the state Capitol under the scrutiny of hundreds of police and California Highway Patrol officers and then spread out through downtown. Eleven protesters were arrested by midafternoon, said Sgt. Jim Jarofick, who had no information on possible charges.
Demonstrators included chefs in aprons and white hats banging utensils on saucepans, as well as activists dressed as giant ears of corn, butterflies and tomatoes. Protesters carried large puppets, signs such as ``Feed the needy, not the greedy,'' and trumpeted urban food programs, veganism and organic farming.
The conference, sponsored by the Agriculture Department, is focusing on farming methods, irrigation and pest management to help developing countries cut world hunger by 2015, a goal set by agriculture secretaries at the World Food Summit last year. More than 800 million people face chronic hunger or malnutrition.
The debate over genetically modified foods is intensifying, with the United States demanding that the World Trade Organization force the European Union to end its ban on genetically modified food. EU ministers did not attend the conference.
The Agriculture Department has closed the conference to the public and certain events to the media, citing security reasons.
On the Net:
Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology: http://www.fas.usda.gov/icd/stconf/conf-info.html
Protest information: http://sacmobilization.org
2.Californian Protesters March on Global Food Conference
USA: June 24, 2003
SACRAMENTO - Chanting "Beat Back the Corporate Attack," thousands of demonstrators protested against genetically engineered foods outside an international agriculture conference yesterday while a small army of police looked on.
The crowd, including some people dressed as ears of corn, marched from the steps of California's capitol building to the nearby convention center, where delegates from more than 100 countries were attending a conference on agricultural science and technology.
The protests remained mostly peaceful. Police made three arrests and confiscated some flammable liquids, pointed sticks and wooden shields from protesters.
The city's downtown was crowded with officers patrolling on foot, on bicycles and on horseback, who said they were taking every effort to prevent a repeat of the protests in Seattle that turned violent four years ago when the World Trade Organization convened there.
On Sunday some 47 demonstrators were arrested on a variety of charges including vandalism, trespassing and assault. One had to be forcibly removed from a tree.
Inside the conference, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman kicked off the talks Monday with remarks about the ways technology could improve crop yields and help to ease food shortages in an ever more crowded world.
ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY DEBATED
"Technology alone is not a solution," Veneman said. "It is merely a tool, and without supportive policies and regulations, its benefits will not be fully realized."
Several protesters, however, argued that technology like bioengineering was being misrepresented as a panacea to the world's food shortage, with little regard for potential dangers.
"We really don't know what the impact of genetically engineered organisms will be," said a student from a nearby university who came to join the march. "We now can breed corn that produces its own pharmaceuticals or its own pesticides, and the thought of eating a tortilla that makes me sick concerns me."
Genetically engineered seeds can now be modified to repel predatory insects and weed killers, helping produce higher-yield crops. Over the past decade, genetic engineering practices have been rapidly adopted by American farmers, and today some 75 percent of soybeans and 34 percent of the corn produced in the U.S. comes from seeds that have been genetically altered in some way.
Much of the protest Monday centered on Monsanto Co., the St. Louis, Missouri-based company which has recently moved to commercialize a bioengineered wheat. Among the signs waved by the protesters were some bearing messages like "Seeds Belong to the People," and even "Monsanto Is Nazi for the Devil."
Some protesters, however, conceded that they did not yet know how dangerous genetically altered foods might be. They said they were mainly concerned by widespread adoption of such foods with little research to support their safety. And they said they were worried the growing power of large corporate farms would squeeze out small family farmers in the United States and around the world.
Story by Andrea Orr
"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology. We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the fight against global hunger." - President Bush
This is the man who at the G8 torpedoed President Chirac's proposal to ban the dumping of subsidised farm produce in African markets.
This is the man in control of the world's stingiest aid budget.
And whose aid promises are misleading.