** IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 3rd August 1998
African Scientists Condemn Monsanto's Latest Tactics and Call for European Support:
At the weekend Monsanto published an advertisement as part of its controversial £1 million advertising campaign. The ad is to persuade the European public that biotech will feed the world's growing population.
More than 24 leading African agriculturalists and environmental scientists representing their countries at the UN have issued a statement to counter Monsanto's arguments. They say Monsanto is using the poor to emotionally blackmail sceptical Europeans by making claims that which are blatantly untrue and unproven.
"We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves."
The African statement calls on Europeans and others to stand in solidarity to resist the gene technology, especially the Terminator Technology_ which destroys the capacity of seed to reproduce itself.
"This is a crime against nature and humanity and should be resisted and terminated" said
Dr. Tewolde Gebre Egziabher, African spokesperson in many international fora. _
Prof. Wangari Mathai of the Green Belt Movement Kenya said:
"History has many records of crimes against humanity, which were also justified by dominant commercial interests and governments of the day. Despite protests from citizens, social justice for the common good was eroded in favour of private profits. Today, patenting of life forms and the genetic engineering which it stimulates, is being justified on the grounds that it will benefit society, especially the poor, by providing better and more food and medicine. But in fact, by monopolising the 'raw' biological materials, the development of other options is deliberately blocked. Farmers therefore, become totally dependent on the corporations for seeds".
Others from developing countries are watching developments with extreme concern. Dr. Vandana Shiva of the Research Foundation for Science and Technology says:
"Monsanto's technologies are not environment friendly, or sustainable. They pose a threat to ecosystems and agriculture. Monsanto's technologies will push Bangladeshi peasants into debt as they have to spend more money on herbicides, seeds, royalties and technology
fees. This rising indebtedness of farmers is intrinsic to industrial agriculture and is the reason why only 2 per cent farmers survive in the U.S. and thousands of farmers have committed suicide in India".
The African statement comes amid growing controversy in the UK over genetically engineered crops. Many groups are now supporting calls for a 5 year moratorium on the commercial growing and sale of genetically engineered crops. A recent survey of the guardians of middle England, the members of the National Federation of Women's Institutes showed that 92.9% of those surveyed felt that more control should be exercised over the multinational companies involved! France ordered a moratorium on GE crops this week and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh withdrew support for it's planned partnership with Monsanto because of environmental concerns.
Enclosures for Editors:
1. Monsanto's Ad published 1st August in The Independent/ 2ndAugust in The Observer
1. African Statement "Let natures harvest CONTINUE!"
2. Communiqué from the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) on Terminator Technology developed by Delta and Pine Land Co now owned by Monsanto.
Copy of the Survey by the National Federation of Women's Institutes
Article by Prof. Wangari Mathai The Linkage between Patenting of Life Forms, Genetic Engineering and Food Insecurity.
FOR MORE INFORMATION - please contact:
1. Tanya Green, The Gaia Foundation: Tel: 0171 435 5000
2. Dr. Vandana Shiva, India, Tel: 00 91 11 6855010
3. Dr. Tewolde Gebre Egziabher, Ethiopia. Tel: 00251 1 186 197
(office) 00 251 1 204 210
4. Prof. Wangari Maathai, Kenya Tel: 00 254 2 603867
5. Dr. Jose Lutzenburger, Brazil Tel: 55 513 303 567
_ As government delegates to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Commission specialising in plant genetic resources, farmers rights, access and benefit sharing.
_ Paper from RAFI enclosed about the Terminator Technology
_ Spokesperson for the African Group at the FAO, negotiator at the Biosafety Protocol of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and General Manager of the Environmental Protection Authority in Ethiopia.
_ The Soil Association, RSPB, English Nature (the Government's advisors), Friends of the Earth, The Gaia Foundation, Women's Environmental Network, amongst others.