US using WSSD to
force GMOs on the world?
Patrick Mulvany, ITDG
26 August 2002
The US is using the dire humanitarian disaster in southern Africa as a way
of forcing GMOs and Genetic Engineering on the world. It sees the World Summit
on Sustainable Development (WSSD) as its platform to get moral approval of
biotechnology, backed by three US-inspired pro-biotechnology reports. On Friday
the US launched a trade war against the EU over its refusal to accept GM foods
and seeds. The solutions lie elsewhere, as identified in ITDG's background
paper "Preserving the Web of Life",
released today in Johannesburg
The US may use the dire humanitarian disaster in southern Africa as a way of
forcing GMOs and Genetic Engineering on the world. It sees the World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD) as its platform to get moral approval of
biotechnology, backed by Press Releases on three reports from the
World Trade Organisation / World Health Organisation, World Food Programme and
Commission for Africa, released in the past few days. The PR spin for each
says they promote GMOs, but detailed reading would suggest greater caution.
The USA has hundreds of thousands of tonnes of GM crops stockpiled for lack
of markets that even at grossly subsidised prices they seem unable shift. Food
Aid is a desirable option for them and the famine in southern Africa provides
the opportunity. They are also keen to ensure that the genetic engineering
technologies used to create GM crops, for which their corporations hold most of
the patents, become dominant in world agriculture. The poor performance of
African agriculture, for many structural, economic and political reasons, is
seized on as a reason to promote biotechnology.
Despite huge pressures, on Thursday the European Union (EU) rejected calls
from Washington for it to reassure African countries that genetically modified
(GM) food aid from the United States is safe, saying that they would not get
drawn into this discussion between some of the countries of southern Africa and
On Sunday it was reported in the UK newspaper
that the US was considering launching a trade war against the EU
over its refusal to accept GM foods and seeds: It said that US trade
representative, Robert Zoellick, would be puttting in a complaint to the World
Trade Organisation claiming that the EU moratorium on GM imports is a restraint
This is a state-sponsored public relations and opinion forming onslaught on
behalf of biotech transnational biotechnology corporations.
As an organisation working closely with smallholder farmers in southern and
East Africa, ITDG welcomes
the European Union's continued efforts to keep Europe GM free. This resistance
to the use of GMOs in food and farming should not be interpreted, however, as
in any way furthering the crisis in the southern Africa, nor as a rejection of
the overwhelming needs of the 14 million people in the region who are on the
brink of starvation.
The answer is not GM Food Aid nor biotechnology.
Dr Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture
Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), said at the World Food Summit:
five years later in June that "The position of FAO is that in the
short-term, biotechnology is not the priority to achieve the goals of the World
Food Summit for 2015 [to have the number of undernourished people in the
world]." Indeed, FAO at the WSSD is promoting ecological approaches to
agriculture as the sustainable option.
The solutions lie elsewhere, as identified in ITDG's background paper
"Preserving the Web of Life", released today in Johannesburg (copies
available at the People's Earth Summit in St Stithians and on the Internet at
< www.ukabc.org/itdg_weboflife.htm >).
If Governments at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg could agree to three
actions, it would go some way to reversing the economic decline in the Region,
provide lasting solutions to food shortages and set African agriculture back on
the right track:
- Food aid can and should be provided as requested by recipient governments
from non GM crops. There are substantial supplies that the World Food Programme
and food aid donors could make full use of non-GM supplies that are acceptable,
at a price. For example, Kenya and Tanzania have offered white maize to Zambia
and GM-free maize could even be sourced in South Africa, thereby stimulating
regional production and trade. Further afield, lower cost Indian supplies could
be tapped - encouraging production in the South rather than the subsidised
- Increased support to local sustainable agricultural production using
agroecological methods, which maximise the use of agricultural biodiversity and
are known to provide reliable sources of food, should be endorsed as part of
the WSSD's implementation of Chapter 14 of the Rio Agenda 21, the Convention of
Biological Diversity and the Summit's Plan of Implementation (see
- Publicly-funded national and international agricultural research should be
increased and should redirect its efforts from mimicking the work of the
biotechnology companies to finding sustainable, proven and productive
agroecological solutions can serve the needs of poor farmers and improve the
In June, the World Food Summit: five years later was used by the US to
promote biotechnology. We predicted then that they would attempt the same in
South Africa using Food Aid needs as the moral hammer with which to batter its
opponents (see www.ukabc.org/wfs5+report.htm).
Governments should not allow a similar hijack of the Earth Summit by US and
biotechnology company pressures.
More on www.ukabc.org/wssd.htm
Also see earlier version
G77: Don't Sell Out Our Small Farmers and
By The Philippine Civil Society Counterpart
Council for Sustainable Development
The battle to end environmentally harmful and trade-distorting subsidies
continues. At stake is the provision in various drafts of Chapter IX (Means of
Implementation) which reads "Reduce or eliminate, as appropriate
environmentally harmful and/or trade-distorting subsidies that inhibit
sustainable consumption and production patterns in developed countries".
On the one hand are the developed countries ganging up for its deletion, on the
other is the G77 pushing for its retention. The most recent discussion on this
provision also calls for developing countries to end such subsidies.
The most recent wording raises two issues. The first is its retention or
deletion, and the second is the removal of the distinction between developed
and developing countries. On the first issue, retention is beneficial to the
South, as subsidies stifle their export producers' access to international
markets. Moreover, some of the heavily subsidised Northern industries, e.g.,
the fishing industry, has depleted fish stocks of the South, often in breach of
agreements, to the detriment of small fishermen in the South.
The second issue recognizes that the matter of subsidies is not purely
divided along North-South lines. In general, it is. But it is also a national
issue for some G77 countries who can afford to dole out subsidies to relatively
large, export-oriented farmers or fishermen who may happen to be politicians or
top government officials. Or they may be corporations lobbying hard for
continued subsidies even in hard-up developing countries. Subsidy schemes
benefitting small-scale farmers and fishermen may be justifiable, but are
The fear is that the G77 is willing to use its position as a trading horse
once it is crunch time, accepting subsidies in exchange for some provisions on
governance from the North. Another leverage to push developing countries into
agreeing to wholesale deletion of the entire provision is the removal of the
distinction between North and South, as suggested in alternative versions of
We call on G77 to look beyond the welfare of special-interest groups, and
champion the small farmers, who constitute the majority of their constituents.
Your unyielding support for the retention of this provision in the
Implementation Plan would send an important signal with positive social and
environmental impacts, not only in the South, but also in the North.
We call on Southern NGOs to immediately put pressure on their respective
country delegations not to compromise on this issue whatsoever. Finally, we
also call on developed countries to play fair by removing perverse subsidies.
Instead, they should channel these funds to assist developing countries to
attain sustainable development in line with what they promised in Rio.