Oxfam America's "sad betrayal of development principles"
Her letter is protesting the Oxfam America co-organized panel discussion and live webcast in New York on 20 February.
The panelists - all avid GM supporters, even include a Monsanto Vice President. Details at http://www.asiasociety.org/events/calendar.pl?rm=detail&eventid=19354
From: Helena Paul
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2009
Subject: Re: The Global Food Crisis: Time for Another Green Revolution?
To Oxfam America
This is a sad betrayal of development principles.
How can Oxfam America set up a discussion about the global food crisis with such an unbalanced panel? Like many other people, I am weary of hearing GM biotechnology promoted in the name of solving the food crisis and very disappointed to see Oxfam America apparently participating in this relentless promotion, judging by the composition of the panel. The truth is that there is no proof to date that GM can deliver higher yields. Any capacity to reduce losses is dependent on high inputs.
Indeed, the UN/World Bank-sponsored reports from the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) make it clear that genetic engineering (GE) is just one technology that may have a role, but is not "the answer" and a far more complex and subtle approach is required to agriculture's multifunctional role than a technofix.
Is Oxfam not aware that Monsanto was one of the companies that pulled out of supporting the IAASTD report when the company saw that GE biotechnology was not going to be promoted by the report?
As for "a new green revolution", once again one of the companies that would stand to gain from a "new green revolution" push for agrochemicals, high response varieties and mass monocultures is Monsanto. Furthermore, the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA), which is pushing for a green revolution in Africa, where it is perhaps most inappropriate, counts the Gates Foundation among its supporters - indeed Rajiv Shah, the invited speaker is on AGRA's board of directors.
By contrast, Martin Taylor, chair of Syngenta, said in June 2008 that the current industry focus on farmers in rich countries meant it would take 20 years to launch crop varieties designed to address the problems of the developing world. He told the Guardian: "GM won't solve the food crisis, at least not in the short term."
Finally Dr Zeigler of IRRI was director of the Plant Biotechnology Center at Kansas State University in the U.S, so he is clearly an advocate of GE.
In fact the list of speakers is completely one-sided. What possibility does this offer for debate? Where are the farmers these speakers will talk about "helping"? Why are the people on the ground not represented on the panel?
Does Oxfam America intend to repeat the mistakes of the first green revolution at the cost of the very people it is supposed to be helping, the poor in the global south?
More letters of protest
Subject: Shocked and disappointed
From: Claire Robinson
I was impressed by the Oxfam briefing paper of Oct 2008, Double-Edged Prices: Lessons from the food price crisis, which heavily criticised big food and agribiz companies, in particular Monsanto, for cashing in on the global food crisis. To me, it typified the clear-sighted stance Oxfam has traditionally taken on GM and agribiz firms and their activities.
So what on earth is Oxfam America doing providing a platform (The Global Food Crisis: Time for Another Green Revolution?, New York) for a Monsanto Vice President - Kevin L. Eblen, Monsanto's former Director of Mergers and Acquisitions, now Monsanto's "Public Policy and Sustainability Lead", WITH NO PRETENCE OF BALANCE IN THE DEBATE?
And there's the guy from Gates Foundation, which has awarded $5.4 million to political and other lobbying designed to break down regulatory resistance to GM crops in Africa.
As for IRRI, their annual reports from 1963-1982 show grants from a whole array of US and European chemical corporations including Monsanto, Shell Chemical, Union Carbide Asia, Bayer Philippines, Eli Lily, Occidental Chemical, Ciba Geigy (later part of Novartis Seeds which is now part of Syngenta), Chevron Chemical, Upjohn, Hoechst, and Cyanamid Far East.
Does Oxfam International support Oxfam America's apparent support for GM, an unsafe, economically and agronomically risky, and fundamentally anti-poor and unsustainable technology?
Unless I see Oxfam distancing itself from the GM and agribiz companies and corporate-backed bodies represented at this event, this will be the end of my lifelong support for this hitherto heroic organisation.
Subject: Re: The Global Food Crisis: Time for Another Green Revolution?
From: Jonathan Matthews
I'm writing to protest at the second program in Oxfam America's co-organized Food Crisis Series - The Global Food Crisis: Time for Another Green Revolution? (New York, Feb 20 2009)
I am totally at a loss to understand how Oxfam of all organisations could provide a platform for Monsanto and its supporters to argue they have the answers to the global food crisis when - to a very considerable degree - they are the cause of the current crisis.
A 2008 World Bank report concluded, as have many others, that increased "biofuel" production is the major cause of the increase in food prices. Monsanto has been at the very heart of the ethanol lobby and is part of the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy (AAFE) - a big agribiz lobby group launched to keep the ethanol mandates in place and to counter criticisms that "biofuels" take land from food production and are directly contributing to the crisis that has led to rising food prices and which has put lives and livelihoods at risk around the world.
Monsanto, of course, has profited spectacularly from the food crisis that it's helped to create. This has included engaging in massive price hikes for its seeds and herbicides. At the same time it's used the crisis as a PR springboard to promote its business via renewed claims that it has the answers to poverty and hunger.
As Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent of The Independent newspaper, succinctly put it, "The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry."
It's use of the crisis as a PR platform is now being assisted by Oxfam America. This despite the fact that the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded, after a thorough sifting of the evidence, that GM crops are not a critical part of the solution to the problems arising from poverty, hunger and climate change.
Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology at the University of Glamorgan in Wales has hit the nail on the head, "The cynic in me thinks that they're just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they're doing it, but the danger is that if they're making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that's bullshit." And now Oxfam America has slapped its logo right across the BS by co-organizing an event at which every speaker is a well known GM promoter.
The new green revolution Ã la Monsanto will lead to more food crises, not fewer.