Fighting hunger conference asked to reject GM crops
World Food Day, 16 October 2008
GM-free Ireland Network
Dublin, Ireland -- Non Governmental Organisations called on Kofi Annan, the former U.N. Secretary General, and Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to oppose GM crops which are being touted as necessary to feed the growing population of the world’s developing countries at the Fighting Hunger Conference  which took place here as part of World Food Day.
The African Centre for Biosafety, Greenpeace International, Friends of the Earth, and GM-free Ireland said patented GM crops are part of the unsustainable industrial agribusiness model that makes farmers more reliant on Monsanto and other giant agri-biotech companies which force them to buy GM seeds along with the chemicals to make them work. “Europe has rejected GM crops because of their genetic, health, agronomic, environmental, legal, economic and food security risks. Promoting their release in developing countries is not acceptable.” 
Corporate food control
The Fighting Hunger conference is hosted by the Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide , with speakers from the U.N. World Food Programme, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR), the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York , along with the Irish Government Departments of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Development . Although most of these bodies now accept the scientific evidence that current GM crops do not increase yields, many of them are reluctant to oppose funding and field trials for “second generation” GM varieties which the industry hopes will have higher yields, drought resistance, and improved nutrition, or GM pharma cash crops which could produce agrofuels and industrial chemical commodities for the export markets:
Kofi Annan who chairs the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), previously said "We in the Alliance will not incorporate GMOs in our programmes. We shall work with farmers using traditional seeds known to them."  But AGRA is funded by the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations which promote GM crops, and documents confirm that AGRA's policy is to "keep the door open" on GMOs. 
Tom Arnold, the conference chair and CEO of Concern, claimed GM crops have "a role to play in increasing global food security" at the BioVision 2008 conference hosted by European Action on Global Life Sciences (a task force of the European Federation of Biotechnology sponsored by Monsanto). 
Prof Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Insitute at Columbia University recently said more funding is needed for research into improved non-GMO seed varieties that are drought and "climate-proof", but also called for African leadership to host field trials of new GM crops intended for the same purpose. 
The UN World Food Programme , NEPAD  and the International Food Policy Research Institute  have also failed to end their support for GM crops.
Empowering local communities to decide their food and farming future
Michael O'Callaghan of GM-free Ireland said "It is regrettable that the participants at the Fighting Hunger conference appear to ignore the recommendations of the U.N. International Assessment of Agriculture, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), endorsed by 60 governments and 400 scientists around the world, which found that GM crops will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals or eradicate hunger”. The report stresses the need for sustainable and organic agriculture, integrated with traditional local farming knowledge carried out with the full involvement of small farmers to protect their food security. 
Mariam Mayet, CEO of the Africa Centre for Biosafety  said "GMOs, the Green Revolution for Africa and Food Aid are part of the problems that caused the structural meltdown which led to the current global crisis. They undermine Africa’s food systems and food sovereignty, people’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems".
Marco Contiero of Greenpeace International  said: “GM technology, and the industrial system it maintains, increases dependence on expensive farm chemicals, decreases biodiversity through commodity crop monocultures, denies people a balanced diet, and destroys the environment on which we all depend. It increases dependence on the companies that supply the technology and the countries that supply the loans to pay for it. GM crops extend all the worst practices of industrial agriculture. Perversely, their widespread adoption would lead to more hungry people not fewer.”
The Columban missionary Fr. SeÃ¡n McDonagh, who works with farming communities in developing countries, said: "Patented GM crops lead to corporate privatisation of farmers seeds and land, exacerbate poverty, bankrupt farmers, and drive millions of subsistence farmers off the land to lives of misery and degradation in megacity slums. Ending hunger requires good scientific research to meet the needs of local people in local ecosystems, diversified crop production, land reform, more available credit for farmers, and a shift away from export-oriented cash crops to production of local food. GM crops are a giant step in the wrong direction.” 
Helen Holder of Friends of the Earth said: "Instead of helping the GM industry to cash-in on the food crisis, the time has come for development aid agencies to fund a radical shift towards sustainable farming systems.” 
Co-ordinator, GM-free Ireland Network
Tel: + 353 (0)404 43885
Mobile: + 353 (0)87 799 4761
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
1. The Fighting Hunger Conference was videotaped and will soon be made available on DVD. Conference website: http://www.concern.net/what-you-can-do/fundraising-events/a1000227/Fighting-hunger-conference.html Concern invited senior policy makers from developing countries, particularly those in Africa, and from donor countries, including Ireland, UK, US and EU. Senior representatives from the business community, academia, media and NGOs will be attending. Conference speakers include:
Kofi Annan, Chaiman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
Peter Power TD, Minster of State for Overseas Development, Ireland
Mary Robinson, Elder and former President of Ireland. Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Boitshepo Giyose, Food and Nutrition adviser for African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Jeffrey Sachs, former adviser to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Director, the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Joachim von Braun, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute
Tom Arnold, Chief Executive Officer, Concern Worldwide
Jim Miley, Chairman of Concern Worldwide
Brendan Rogers, Director General, Irish Aid/Development Cooperation Division, Department of Foreign Affairs
Sheila Sisulu, Director, World Food Programme
Akin Adesina, Vice President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
Agnes Abera Kalibata, State Minister for Agriculture in Rwanda
2. The organisations which critiqued the Fighting Hunger conference are:
African Centre for Biosafety: http://www.biosafetyafrica.net
Greenpeace International: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/genetic-engineering
Friends of the Earth: http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/Index.htm
GM-free Ireland Network: http://www.gmfreeireland.org
All of these NGOs say that GM crops are not a solution to hunger or poverty. Despite more than a decade of commercialization there are no GM crops that increase yields or resist droughts. Areas where GM crops are grown widely have seen a drastic reduction in numbers of small farmers.
3. Concern Worldwide: http://www.concern.net/
Tom Arnold is CEO of Concern Worldwide, chairman of the European Food Security Group, and member of the Irish Government Hunger Task Force.
4. Organisations whose speakers represented them at the Fighting Hunger conference include:
U.N. World Food Programme: http://www.wfp.org)
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA): http://www.agra-alliance.org
New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): http://www.nepad.org
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR): http://www.ifpri.org
The Earth Institute at Columbia University: http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu
5. On 2 September 2008, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheal Martin, launched a research programme between UCC’s College of Science, Engineering and Food Science and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, which is well-known for promoting GM crops with funding from USAID. The institute, based in Nigeria with operations across sub-Saharan African, has been a partner of Irish Aid for many years. The Irish Government Department of Foreign Affairs also allowed Monsanto to join its team representing Ireland at the WTO Ministerial Conference in CancÃºn in 2003 and again in December 2005, when Mella Frewen, Director of Government Affairs (Europe-Africa) at Monsanto Services International, joined the Irish Government Delegation to the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong.
6. See “GMOs Ruled Out in Africa Hunger Fight”, Kenyan Business Daily, 17 July 2007:
7. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was established in 2006 with an initial $150 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations, two organisations which promote GM crops in the developing countries. It is widely regarded as the flagship for industrial agribusiness and related intellectual property regimes required as a pre-cursor for the subsequent introduction of patented GM crops
The AGRA Statement on Plant Breeding and Genetic Engineering states:
"AGRA is not at this time funding the development of new varieties through the use of genetic engineering”
"We do not preclude future funding for genetic engineering as an approach to crop variety improvement when it is the most appropriate tool to address an important need of small-scale farmers and when it is consistent with government policy.”
"Our mission is not to advocate for or against the use of genetic engineering. We believe it is up to governments, in partnership with their citizens, to use the best knowledge available to put in place policies and regulations that will guide the safe development and acceptable use of new technologies, as several African countries are in the process of doing. We will consider funding the development and deployment of such new technologies only after African governments have endorsed and provided for their safe use.”
8. Concern CEO Tom Arnold attented the BioVision conference organised by the agri-biotech lobby group European Action on Global Life Sciences (EAGLES) in April 2008, where he said “You can’t rule out the possibility of GM foods, in the longer term, having an increasing role to play in food security” and “There has to be a potential in some of this gene technology to breed shorter cycle or drought resistant plants.” (Farm reform is key to battling hunger, Irish Times, 18 April 2008).
See EAGLES web site at http://www.efb-central.org/eagles/). Prof. David McConnell is the Co-Vice-Chairman. The Irish Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Prof Patrick Cunningham, is a member.
9. Jeffrey Sachs heads The Earth Institute at Columbia University (http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu). He is a former adviser to the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, and an adovocate of economic “shock therapy” in South America during the 1980s.
“Mr Sachs would also like to see more funding on research into improved seed varieties that are drought and ‘climate-proof’, as ‘these climate shocks will continue to come.’ However, he stressed that this meant conventional crops, along with increased use of fertilisers and small-scale irrigation, and not genetically modified organisms.”
”” Food aid alone will not solve global food crisis, economist tells EU. EU Observer, 7 May 2008.
“The European blanket, sometimes shrill, opposition definitely has a wear and tear effect in Africa. African leadership is often simply scared even to host the research for fears that this will prevent exports from their countries to European markets, even exports of conventionally produced crops. So there's a lot of fear. There was a time when an emergency food shipment from the United States, the food that I eat every day, that was milled for flour, was turned back, reportedly on the fears of the national leadership that it had been produced by GMO crops, at a time when there was an intense famine. Now, this kind of response really won’t do. It won’t serve the needs of desperately poor people who need the best of our goodwill and efforts to help them to solve their problems.”
”” BBC Radio 4 programme "Costing the Earth" broadcast on 17 January 2008.
10. The U.N. World Food Programme ( distributed live GM seeds for African food aid until Zambia refused, and is now said to try only to distribute milled seeds as opposed to live GMOs.
"WFP has received donations of foods for use in southern Africa, some of which contain GMOs. Several governments in southern Africa have accepted these donated foods without reservation, and GM maize varieties are grown in the region. However, other Governments have expressed reservations on receiving food aid containing GMOs and have sought advice from the United Nations."
"Based on national information from a variety of sources and current scientific knowledge, FAO, WHO and WFP hold the view that the consumption of foods containing GMOs now being provided as food aid in southern Africa is not likely to present human health risk. Therefore, these foods may be eaten. The Organizations confirm that to date they are not aware of scientifically documented cases in which the consumption of these foods has had negative human health effects.”
“If the national regulations of either a donor or recipient country place any restrictions on in-kind donations, purchase or receipt of GM/biotech foods, WFP fully honours those restrictions. If there are no such restrictions in force, WFP proceeds accordingly.”
”” WFP Policy on Donations of Foods Derived from Biotechnology (GM/Biotech Foods)
WFP/EB.3/2002/4-C, 14 October 2002: http://www.wfp.org/eb/docs/2002/wfp011823~2.pdf
“The Joint United Nations Statement highlighted potential environmental issues related specifically to maize, but indicated clearly that, based on all scientific evidence available to date and national information, GM/biotech foods now marketed present no known risk to human health. The Statement also endorsed the basic principle in WFP’s existing policy, that the acceptance or rejection of any such food donations is the prerogative of the recipient Government.”
“The possibility of using GMO techniques to develop salt, drought and submergence-tolerant varieties of rice and other crops needs to be properly investigated through public sector institutions and the appropriate policy implemented.”
”” FAO / WFP crop and food supply assessment Mission to Bangladesh,
Recommendations on agricultural policies, 28 August 2008
“According to FAO, primary challenges in budgeting in an HIV context include ‘Difficulty procuring specialized foods. Specialized foods required by HIV-infected individuals can be difficult to procure because of higher costs and limited access due to restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other import constraints.’”
”” Food Assistance Programming In the Context of HIV,
FAO September 2007
11. New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): http://www.nepad.org
NEPAD proposed to set up a high-level African Panel on Biotechnology (APB) whose goals include to “Ensure that Africa adopts a proactive strategy to capture economic, health care, environmental, and industrial benefits from biotechnology and manage potential challenges, risks, and tradeoffs associated with the development, commercialisation and application of the technology.”
”” NEPAD statement on GMOs: Biotechnology and Sustainable Development in Africa:
12. International Food Policy Research Institute: http://www.ifpri.org
“IFPRI does not advocate or take a general position on the utility and safety of GM crops” but “IFPRI is ... aware that some biotechnologies are controversial. We further know that while these technologies alone cannot solve the complex problems of hunger and poverty, some do have great potential to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and benefit poor populations in developing countries. Because this possibility exists, IFPRI believes it would be irresponsible not to assess the potential of genetically modified crops such as nutrient-enriched or drought-tolerant and disease-resistant crop varieties. At the same time, the Institute fully supports appropriate biosafety regulatory systems that are able to assess the risks.”
13. IAASTD: http://www.agassessment.org and
Executive summary of the report: http://www.agassessment.org/docs/SR_Exec_Sum_210408_Final.pdf
14. The African Centre for Biosafety (http://www.biosafetyafrica.net) is a non profit organisation, based in Johannesburg South Africa. It provides authoritative, credible, relevant and current information, research and policy analysis on issues pertaining to genetic engineering , biosafety and biopiracy in Africa.
15. Marco Contiero is an international environmental lawyer who heads the Greenpeace campaign GM food and farming. See http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/genetic-engineering
Greenpeace believes that food security the ability of a community to feed itself consistently on a diverse diet is a complex problem that will not be solved overnight: it depends on people having access to land and money. GM provides neither. Not only do GM crops not provide the solution, they also pose a threat of irreversible harm to the environment the real basis of people’s food security. The time has come to reject the false promise of GM and the agriculture industry and to support the real revolution in farming that meets the many needs of local communities and the environment, restores the land degraded by the agriculture industry, and helps the poor to combat their own poverty and hunger.”
16. Fr. SeÃ¡n McDonagh is a Dominican missionary priest and the author of the book Patenting Life? Stop! Is corporate greed forcing us to eat genetically modified food? Dominican Publications, Dublin, 2003. ISBN 1-871552-85-0. â‚¬ 14.99 http://www.dominicanpublications.com
17. Helen Holder heads the Friends of the Earth Europe campaign on GMOs.
For details see http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/Index.htm