Get GM research out of foreign aid
2.Global Food Security Act
3.G8 Urged to Reject Another 'Green Revolution'
1.PAN ALERT: TAKE ACTION - Tell Congress: Get GE Research Out of Foreign Aid
Despite a mountain of evidence that genetically engineered (GE) crops have failed to deliver, a new multi-billion dollar aid bill before the Senate directs more money towards more GE research. This portion of the bill is a stealth giveaway to agribusiness in the name of feeding the world’s poor. It will further de-stabilize the developing world’s capacity to feed itself for generations to come.
Act Now! Urge your Senator to strip the biotech provision it revises the 1961 Federal Assistance Act to mandate that US food aid include research on genetically engineered crops.
The Global Food Security Act (SB 384) represents the biggest project in U.S. agricultural aid since the original “Green Revolution” introduced pesticides to poor farmers throughout the world in the 1950s and 1960s. The bill sailed through committee last month based on hastily conducted, industry-friendly research.
With heavy agribusiness support, and a sweet-sounding name, the Global Food Security Act will likely be passed. The act has many merits, but its biotech research and development provision must be stripped if we are to avoid another failed “Green Revolution.”
Now is the time to tell Congress to strip the GE provision.
TAKE ACTION: http://action.panna.org/t/5185/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27074
2.Global Food Security Act
Foreign Policy In Focus, April 17 2009
Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco
Editor's Note: This commentary was adapted from the report "Why the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act will Fail to Curb Hunger," by Annie Shattuck and Eric Holt-GimEnez. (Food First Policy Brief No. 18. Institute for Food and Development Policy. Oakland, California.)
A new bill before the Senate would create a federal mandate for genetically modified (GM) crop research as part of U.S. aid programs, despite evidence that these crops will fail to curb hunger.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the sweet-sounding Global Food Security Act (SB 384) last month with little fanfare. The legislation, also known as the Lugar-Casey Act for the bill's authors Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Robert Casey (D-PA), includes a provision sought after by aid groups that would allow food aid to be purchased ”” at least in part, locally. The bill aims to reform aid programs to focus on longer-term agricultural development, and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises. While the focus on hunger is commendable, funding for agricultural development ”” some $7.7 billion worth of it ”” under the proposed law would be directed in large part to genetically modified crop research.
The bill is proving to be divisive among aid groups. But according to a new report by Food First that I co-authored, this bill is not an isolated piece of legislation, but a coordinated roll-out of the "new Green Revolution," - a project that includes the Gates Foundation's multi-billion dollar Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). In fact, the legislation is based on an industry-friendly report funded by the Gates Foundation. Initiated by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in fall of 2008 and drafted by the end the year, the hastily prepared report on which the new law is based calls for increasing research funding for biotechnology.
Ignoring the Evidence
In contrast, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a recent four-year study conducted by the World Bank and the Food and Organization (FAO) in consultation with more than 400 scientists and development experts, reached the opposite conclusions. The IAASTD found that reliance on resource-extractive industrial agriculture is unsustainable, particularly in the face of worsening climate, energy, and water crises. And it concluded that expensive, short-term technical fixes ”” including GM crops ”” don't adequately address the complex challenges of the agricultural sector and often exacerbate social and environmental harm. The IAASTD called for land reform, agro-ecological techniques (proven to enhance farmers' adaptive capacity and resilience to environmental stresses such as climate change and water scarcity), building local economies, local control of seeds, and farmer-led participatory breeding programs.
Evidence in favor of these alternatives is building. A 2008 study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found that "organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and”¦it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term." Numerous studies have documented these alternatives' ability not only to raise yield - but reduce poverty and inequality, the root cause of hunger.
Lessons from the First Green Revolution
The Lugar-Casey Act represents the biggest project in agriculture since the original Green Revolution industrialized farming in the 1950s and 1960s. The first Green Revolution increased global food production by 11% in a very short time, but per capita hunger also increased equally as much. How could this be? Green Revolution technologies are expensive. The fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, and machinery needed to cash in on productive gains put the technology out of reach of most small farmers, increasing the divide between rich and poor in the developing world. Poor farmers were driven out of business and into poverty-stricken urban slums.
The new Green Revolution the Lugar-Casey bill highlights suffers from all these same problems. This time, however, the genetically engineered seeds will be under patent and privately owned by the biotechnology corporations that monopolize the seed industry. Patented seeds can be up to 35% more expensive than traditional and hybrid varieties.
Moreover, while the first Green Revolution did significantly raise yields, genetic modification has yet to do so. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that GM crops don't raise the potential yield of crops at all ”” the best they can do is marginally reduce losses, something improved farming practices, conventional pesticides, and agroecological techniques do as well. According to microbiologist Margaret Mellon, "After more than 3,000 field trials, only two types of engineered genes are in widespread use, and they haven't helped raise the ceiling on potential yields. This record does not inspire confidence in the future of the technology."
New Subsidies, New Markets
The funding the Lugar-Casey bill mandates is essentially a subsidy to private research and development goals: it has nothing to do with reducing hunger. Public money will go to U.S. corporations to produce patented products, essentially subsidizing risky projects and privatizing gain in the name of charity.
While funding from the Lugar-Casey Act may greatly expand current government-biotech partnerships, it certainly does not invent them. The U.S. government is already funding public-private private research partnerships with foreign aid dollars. One such partnership between Arcadia Biosciences, USAID (the U.S. agency responsible for delivering foreign aid), and Mahyco Seeds, an Indian seed company in which Monsanto has a significant ownership stake, will license the seeds ”” developed with public funds ”” to Mahyco.
Another partnership between USAID and Monsanto to develop a virus-resistant sweet potato in Kenya failed to deliver any useful product for farmers. After fourteen years and $6 million, local varieties vastly outperformed their genetically modified cousins in field trials. Meanwhile, conventional breeders in Uganda developed a virus-resistant strain in a few years at a small fraction of the cost. What the USAID-Monsanto partnership did succeed in, however, was creating a legal framework to open Kenya to conventional biotech products. In 2001 Kenyan legislators passed the Industrial Property Act, which according to patent expert Robert Lettington "may actually place very little restriction on the patenting of life forms at all." Lettington was right; this year Kenya approved a biosafety law that will allow for commercialization of genetically modified crops.
Currently, GM crops are legal in only three African nations. India and the Philippines are the only Southeast Asian nations that allow biotech plantings; Honduras is the only Central American nation to permit GM crops. Once attached to a pool of foreign aid money, the pressure to open markets to biotechnology will be substantial. The countries targeted for initial projects ”” Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Honduras ”” are all nations where the biotech industry has made significant inroads. They also represent significant potential markets ”” and a windfall for U.S. seed and chemical companies.
One thing is clear: The Global Food Security Act isn't just about feeding the hungry - it's about advancing the interests of U.S. agribusiness. The IAASTD found that agroecological techniques, stricter regulation of multinational agribusiness, and increased democratic control of the global food system can address the root causes of hunger in a way that a biotechnology never will. Lugar-Casey's renewed focus on agricultural development is welcome but that focus must come with a commitment to put the interests of small farmers before that of industry.
Annie Shattuck, a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor, is a policy analyst at the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First, in Oakland, California.
3.G8 Urged to Reject Another 'Green Revolution'
The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis, APRIL 16 2009
*U.S. working group on the food crisis urges G8 to reject failed green revolution policies for Africa
*"'Business as Usual' Will Not Solve Global Hunger Crisis"
WASHINGTON - April 16 - The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis, a group representing anti-hunger, family farm, community food security, environmental, international aid, labor, food justice, consumers and other food system actors, urges the G8 at the upcoming Agricultural Ministerial in Treviso, Italy to reject the failed policies of the Green Revolution. A recent landmark report backed by the UN and World Bank argues for agroecological and sustainable agriculture, rather than reliance on chemical-intensive practices and genetic engineering.
The U.S. Working Group is deeply disappointed by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hasty passage of the Global Food Security Act (S. 384) on March 31. This bill would mark a significant shift in U.S. policy by specifically mandating foreign agriculture research for genetic engineering. Previously, we had criticized the Committee's March 24 hearing on "Alleviating Global Hunger" that relied on testimonies from "Green Revolution" advocates for the industrial agriculture system. We urge the G8 summit to resist pressure from the biotech industry and embrace genuine solutions to the food crisis.
The U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis’s vision for reforming agriculture policy to help end the global food crisis calls on governments to:
* Re-regulate commodity futures markets to end excessive speculation
* Halt expansion of industrial agrofuels in developing countries
* Stabilize commodity prices through international and domestic food reserves
* Establish fairer regional and global trade arrangements
* Direct farm policy, research, education and investment toward agroecological farming practices.
The United States should reject the approach of the Global Food Security Act, sponsored by Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Bob Casey (D-PA), and instead bring our agricultural research and foreign aid strategy in line with the findings of the acclaimed International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), backed by United Nations agencies, the World Bank and over 400 contributing scientists from 80 countries. The IAASTD found that the most promising solutions to the world’s food crisis include investing in agroecological research, extension and farming.
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network and a Lead Author of the IAASTD report said, “Today’s global food crisis demands immediate action. But the Lugar-Casey Global Hunger Bill takes us in exactly the wrong direction. As numerous scientific reports from the UN have confirmed, African productivity can be most effectively increased through investment in organic and agroecological farming.” Ishii-Eiteman further cautioned the G8 not to focus simply on production: “The bigger, more fundamental challenge today is about restoring fairness and democratic control over our food systems. It is about increasing the profitability, well-being and resilience of small-scale and family farmers in the face of massive environmental and global economic challenges.”
Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy has released a policy brief on “Why the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act Will Fail to Curb Hunger” (attached). Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director of Food First, said, “The Global Food Security Act, while commendable for its renewed focus on investing in agricultural development in Africa, mandates funding for genetically modified (GM) crop research. Past public-private partnerships on GM crops for Africa have proven to be colossal failures. The failed GM sweet potato project between Monsanto, USAID and a Kenyan research institute is a good example of 14 years’ worth of wasted money and effort. The G8 Conference should focus on solutions that actually work.”
Anti-hunger groups also criticized the Global Food Security Act’s approach and warned about the effects of promoting biotechnology on the poor. Bill Ayres, Executive Director of World Hunger Year, said, “The recent Global Food Security Act to improve the U.S. response to the world food crisis starts from a flawed premise. Indeed, the world and the U.S. in particular must refocus antihunger efforts to support aid and agricultural research for small farmers throughout the world. But the emphasis on genetically modified crops is misplaced. We saw Germany this week ban genetically engineered maize based on health and environmental grounds. GM maize has also been banned in France and Greece. We should focus on helping African farmers maintain control over their land and seeds, earn a living wage, and enhance not degrade the quality of their land and water.”
Faith groups also recommended a new approach to eliminating global hunger and warned that the G8 should not emphasize biotechnology. Andrew Kang Bartlett of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said, “While the intentions behind the Global Food Security Act may be laudable, the question is whether poorer farmers left behind by the last Green Revolution will again be swept aside by a top-down approach that benefits mostly transnational corporations.” Dave Kane, of Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, a Catholic missionary organization with priests, brothers, sisters and lay people working in Asia, Africa and Latin America, added, “We have found GM technology to be disastrous for small farmers and rural communities. Our missioners in Latin America and Asia have seen farmers get deeper and deeper into debt as they struggle to pay for all the seeds, fertilizers and herbicides that GMO technologies require. The result: farmers lose their land and with it, the ability to feed themselves and their families.”
The National Family Farm Coalition, a North American member of La Via Campesina, the international peasants movement, will be pressing the G8 to reconsider policies that advocate for food sovereignty. Ben Burkett, a Mississippi farmer and president of NFFC said, “Farmers both here and in Africa know that the current industrial agriculture model””and the push to fast-track trade liberalization””has failed to alleviate global hunger and denied family farmers a sustainable livelihood. A recently released report this month by Union of Concerned Scientists titled “Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops,” showed that despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields while only driving up costs for farmers. In comparison, traditional breeding continues to deliver better results. The G8 needs to move away from Green Revolution monoculture practices and instead implement the IAASTD’s most promising options: support ecologically sound practices, more equitable trade rules and local food distribution systems to empower family farmers.”
The US Working Group on the Food Crisis is an ad hoc group of organizations from around the US, representing various sectors of the food system, including anti-hunger, family farm, community food security, environmental, international aid, labor, food justice, consumer, and other groups. We do not view the food crisis as an unexpected, sudden emergency of the last year, but as the inevitable consequence of the development of a long list of misguided agricultural and food policies over the last 30+ years.
CONTACT: US Working Group on the Food Crisis
Eric Holt-Gimenez, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy,
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, Pesticide Action Network North America,
Dave Kane, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns,
Andrew Kang Bartlett, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
Katherine Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition,
Christina M. Schiavoni, World Hunger Year,