Only a week ago George W. Bush proclaimed, "European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa". But it is Bush who is hindering that cause, "threatening catastrophe for millions of farmers in Africa" (item 1 below).
Why? Partly to spite European governments like France who did not support his war in Iraq but also, according to Justin Forsyth of Oxfam, because, "The Americans don't want a specific focus on Africa."
1. US threatens to sink French plan to stop the West undercutting African farmers
2. Coming soon: the great GM crops debate. But does the Government really want your views?
US threatens to sink French plan to stop the West undercutting African farmers
By Andy McSmith in Evian
The Independent, 02 June 2003
Poltical fallout from the Iraq war is threatening catastrophe for millions of farmers in Africa, because the Americans may torpedo a French plan to ban the dumping of subsidised farm produce in African markets. British diplomats have been working frantically to bridge the gap, in the hope of keeping alive the plan, which has Tony Blair's personal backing.
The US spends between $3bn (£1.8bn) and $4bn a year subsidising 25,000 American cotton farmers - more than its annual aid budget to the entire African continent - flooding the world market with cheap cotton, while in west Africa, 10 million people rely on cotton growing for their livelihood.
A typical small farmer will make about $300 a year.
The European Union is also guilty of undercutting African farmers, through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), turning Europe into the world's biggest exporter of white sugar, with disastrous results in countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, which are in effect locked out of the European market. The EU also dumps subsidised milk and wheat on markets from Kenya to Senegal, while restricting imports of African produce.
The French President, Jacques Chirac, has proposed a moratorium on all subsidies of produce that are sold in Africa, which could go a long way towards enabling African farmers to achieve self-sufficiency. But the plan has had a frigid reception in Washington. The US says its export credits should be exempt.
The American reaction is a striking departure from the normal courtesies of G8 summits, in which the host nation usually puts up proposals and the following year's host nation - in this case the US - promises to follow them up.
By contrast, President Chirac's proposal has been given enthusiastic public support by Mr Blair, not only because it will benefit Africa, but because Britain has been pushing for reform of the CAP against French resistance. He has promised that the idea will be followed up when the British host the 2005 G8 summit.
Justin Forsyth, of Oxfam, said: "This proposal is a casualty of the Iraq war. The Americans don't want a specific focus on Africa and they don't want to support a French proposal."
Jeremy Haywood, Mr Blair's private secretary, has been working behind the scenes for days in the hope of brokering an agreement between the Americans and the French. Yesterday, British officials said they were "hopeful" of a deal.
There was also a veiled warning to the Americans yesterday from Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, who told Radio 4's The World This Weekend programme: "The countries of the developed world really cannot go on preaching free trade abroad and practising protectionism at home. What I hope will happen at this G8 meeting is that the G8 countries together, faced with this demand - quite rightly - from Africa and the rest of the poor world, will reaffirm their commitment to creating rules for trade that are not only free but fair."
Meanwhile, British diplomats have helped to secure an agreement to fight corruption in Africa. Companies that extract oil and minerals will have to publish the full details of deals they strike with the relevant governments.
This follows a series of allegations that money from extraction rights has been siphoned off into private bank accounts. A dispute about whether the rules should be compulsory or voluntary was settled under a compromise deal that says governments will have the option of whether to sign up to the agreement or not, but companies will be bound by their government's policy. Supporters of the deal say that it will work provided a "critical mass" of the richest nations joins up.
2.Coming soon: the great GM crops debate. But does the Government really want your views?
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
The Independent, 02 June 2003
It's obscure. It's small scale. It's been starved of funds. It has not been nationally advertised. In fact, it hasn't been advertised at all. You could be forgiven for thinking the Government doesn't want you to know about it. Yet this is the National GM Debate. Starting tomorrow, it will be the only official chance people will have to make their views known over whether genetically modified crops should be commercially grown in Britain.
Entitled "GM Nation" and based on a series of conferences and meetings around the country, the debate comes at a crucial moment. After four years of delay, the decision on whether or not widespread GM farming can go ahead in Britain will be taken at the end of the summer. It will have huge environmental, ethical and socio-economic implications.
Supporters say GM technology enables farmers to get better weed control and enhance crop yields, and that it may be a vital tool in enabling poor countries to feed themselves. They say it represents the way forward for agriculture, without risk to the environment or human health. Opponents say that to press ahead may seriously damage the countryside and its wildlife; that it may be a risk to human health; that it may make enterprises such as organic farming virtually impossible; and that it interferes with nature in a way that is irresponsible and dangerous.
Tony Blair and some of his Cabinet are strongly in favour of GM technology, as are a large number of figures in the UK scientific establishment. Its biggest supporter of all is the US government of President George Bush, on behalf of the American agribusiness companies that have led the way in developing the technology and are now exporting it around the world. Last month, the United States lodged a complaint against the European Union at the World Trade Organisation over European foot-dragging over licensing new GM products.
Yet among the British, public opposition to GM technology remains solid, even though the issue has dropped out of the news since the row was at its height in 1999. Currently, opponents of GM outnumber supporters by four to one. The lack of headlines does not mean the issue has gone away; it has merely been put on hold while a four-year trial of the four GM crops proposed for Britain has been carried out. Its purpose has been to test the effects of the special, powerful weedkillers that the crops have been genetically engineered to tolerate on farmland wildlife.
English Nature, the Government's wildlife advisory body, fears the introduction of herbicide-tolerant GM crops into the countryside will be just a further intensification of the pesticide-based intensive farming that has already led to the loss of 40 per cent of Britain's farmland birds in the past 40 years. English Nature's scientists believe fields already denuded of insects, plants and birds will lose what remains: they will become "green concrete", with nothing in them but the farmer's crop.
The trials are a test of that hypothesis, and will conclude next month when the last test field of GM oilseed rape is harvested. The results will be known around September. As things stand, if they indicate that there is any increased harm to wildlife from GM crop weedkillers, it will be the one legal chance Britain has to halt the large-scale introduction of GM farming.
The Government is claiming that its hands are tied: approval for GM crops is given not in London but in Brussels, by a majority vote of all the EU member states, after a lengthy approval process; the decision is then binding across Europe.
One of the crops intended for Britain, Bayer's GM fodder maize, already has its EU approval. Under current Brussels law, the only way Britain could now prevent its commercial use would be to find new evidence of harm either to people or the environment. The farm-scale trials could provide this; if they do, commercialisation of GM may be prevented. But if they do not, sometime this autumn the Government is likely to give the go-ahead for the GM age to begin in our countryside.
But tomorrow it is finally going ahead, and people can have their say on one of the most important decisions that will ever be taken about the environment in Britain. Whether or not the Government takes heed is another question entirely.
Meet Uncle Sam's very own GM Information Minister - code name: Comical Praki: http://www.ngin.org.uk/comical_ali_animated.gif Black propaganda, covert operations, Words of Mass Deception... Comical Praki's the man!
For more on Comical Praki, see "THE PANTS ON FIRE HOT SHOT OF 2002": http://ngin.tripod.com/pantsoftheyearaward.htm