Bishop urges gov't to go slow on GMOs / Small scale farmers grow a new movement
"a few transnational companies hold a monopoly on the seeds. The question is: Who then benefits from this global food system?" (item 1)
1.Bishop urges gov't to go slow on GMOs - the Philippines
2.SMALL SCALE FARMERS GROW A NEW MOVEMENT - South Africa
1.Bishop urges gov't to go slow on GMOs
MindaNews / 13 October 2003
DAVAO CITY -- Bishop Antonio Ledesma, S.J., of the Prelature of Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur, is urging the government to set aside more funds in assisting small farmers to go into sustainable agriculture instead of pushing the immediate propagation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
"In the absence of compelling human emergency, there is no justifiable reason to introduce in a hurry new untested technology until we have solid proof of their utility and safety," the bishop said in a statement to be published in the CBCP Monitor, the publication of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. CBCP President Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, earlier issued the same statement.
On the technology issue, Ledesma noted that GMO industries tend to come up with genes that produce toxins against which insects will build up resistance. He said it is similar to the "green revolution" during the Marcos years that was found to be not ecologically sustainable. "Rice yields have been falling gradually since the 1980s because of long-term soil degradation. By increasing plant yields, some scientists believe that biotechnology creates an unsustainable burden of production on the soil structure," he said.
The bishop asked if the GMO technology is "socially just." As experienced in Canada, Ledesma said, GM crops have contaminated non-GM plants, eventually wiping out traditional seed farming. "Merely a few transnational companies hold a monopoly on the seeds. The question is: Who then benefits from this global food system?" he said.
Reiterating the Philippine bishops' call for a moratorium on GMOs, Ledesma believes that transgenic technology may be used for medicinal purposes, as well as for feed and food. "However, proper safeguards should likewise be considered," he added.
2.Small scale farmers grow a new movement
PRESS RELEASE - BIOWATCH SOUTH AFRICA - 13 October 2003
On the eve of World Food Security Day, the key providers of the country's food began an historical meeting with the cry of "One farmer, one voice!" The small scale farmers of South Africa have united in a national forum to fight for their rights. They gathered from around the country and spent 3 days discussing solutions to the unique challenges faced by small scale farmers - those who are responsible for feeding the families and communities of South Africa.
The meeting culminated in the election of a Farmers Council comprised of leaders from each province to grow the South African Small Scale Farmers Forum from the bottom up. Before leading a traditional ceremony to bless the soil and pray for rain and good crops, Spiritual Leader Dr Ntate Koka reminded the farmers that they are the true leaders of the African Renaissance because they retain the culture of Africa. As he let seeds fall from his hand into a weaved bowl, he said, "there can be no agriculture without culture".
Small scale farmers typically farm on acres rather than hectares of land, principally to put food on their families tables. The challenges identified at the meeting included assistance with faster access to land, water, markets and finances. There was also a strong call for government to support organic and sustainable farming methods which are cheap, environmentally friendly and produce highly marketable products. Ntate Nkoka said "our culture is organic" and farmers agreed that they hold a wealth of indigenous knowledge in organic farming which needs to be built upon. Indigenous seed must also be protected and promoted because it is naturally adapted to our climate but fast being replaced by aggressively marketed industrial seed. The farmers realised the need for a united voice to ensure that their needs are heard and supported.
The seed of the SA Small Scale Farmers Forum was planted last year at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), where over 300 farmers and farmer leaders from all over Africa came together to represent themselves rather than having government, industry or non-governmental organisations speak for them. A regional body, the East and Southern African Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) was born. The South African meeting, held a year later at the Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre in Roodepoort, renewed and formalised the commitment of South African farmers to begin a movement to raise the profile of small scale farmers in South Africa and throughout the continent. ESAFF chairperson, Esta Kiwazi of Uganda, said in her keynote address, "we (farmers) are hard pressed but we're not crushed because farming is our culture, culture does not die."
The newly elected SA Small Scale Farmers Forum coordinating body will now return to their provinces where they will build from the ground up and bring other farmers on board to join the movement. South African chairperson Thato Lesupi said in his closing speech, until the lion is able to tell his story, then it will always be told by the hunter." Ends
For more information contact: Haidee Swanby, Biowatch South Africa, (021) 447 5939, 083 520 1782
Video footage, audio and photographs of the meeting and traditional seed ceremony are available. Contacts:
SA Small Farmer Forum Chair, Free State, Mr. Thato Lesupi: 083 402
Mpumalanga rep, Ms. Tsepho Khumbane speaks on the innovativeness of small scale farmers : 012 735 1570 or 084 864 3049 KZN rep, Ms. Aurelia Mhlongo speaks on the need for s.s. farmers to access wider markets. 035 474 9888 Western Cape rep, Mr. Karloff Naude speaks on the importance of growing the farmers forum from the ground up O843054618 Biowatch SA outreach facilitator, Gauteng, Mr Peter Komane has been instrumental in bringing farmers together since the WSSD to date -082 298 4860