7-Misc: Food aid for the South with Monsanto's GE plants?
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- Date: Wed, 10 Mar 99 19:18:28 -0000
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Date: 09.03 21:23 Uhr
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RAFI News Release - 9 March 1999
Rural Advancement Foundation International
*** MONSANTO - Handled with CARE? ***
*** or, CARE - Handled by MONSANTO? ***
MAJOR U.S. RELIEF AGENCY HOLDS TALKS WITH TROUBLED
AGBIOTECH MULTINATIONAL - WHO'S HELPING WHO?
CARE, the high-profile U.S. food aid non-profit, is holding talks today
with Monsanto Corporation at the company's world headquarters in St.
Missouri (US). According to information received by RAFI, Monsanto's CEO
Robert Shapiro contacted CARE's President, Peter Bell, inviting CARE
officials to discuss ways in which Monsanto may be able to use its
technologies for the benefit of food security in the South. Whether this
an attempt to resurrect Monsanto's scheme to provide micro-credit ("soft")
loans to Third World farmers in order to market its proprietary pesticides
and genetically-modified seeds remains to be seen.
Monsanto is one of the world's leading Gene Giants - dominant in both crop
chemicals and seeds. The company's best known product, Roundup
(glyphosate), is the world's top selling herbicide and a multi-billion
dollar profit engine for Monsanto. The company's patents on Roundup are
expiring, however, and Monsanto is looking for new ways to maintain its
market share and to advance sales of its controversial transgenic
(genetically-modified) soybean, maize, cotton, and potato varieties. Using
genetic engineering, Monsanto has bred seeds that tolerate Roundup
spraying. It is estimated that the contentious market strategy has won
Monsanto at least 85% of the booming U.S. transgenic seed market, and
experts suggest, a similar share of the global transgenic market.
* Cash 'n CARE? In June 1998, Monsanto announced that it would develop a
special microcredit programme with the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh that
would have made it financially feasible for cash-starved farmers to take
out loans to buy Monsanto's advanced technology products. The Grameen Bank
has won international accolades for its championing of credit programmes
rural women who would not normally be seen as credit-worthy by
banks. Within a month of the Monsanto-Grameen announcement, however, the
Bangladeshi institution cancelled the deal bowing to intense public
pressure within South Asia and around the world.
* Once More with Feeling? "At the time, we heard rumours that CARE and
possibly some other development aid agencies were discussing similar
with Monsanto" Pat Mooney, RAFI's executive director says, "but we were
told that CARE backed away from the table when Grameen threw in the
"Now we are informed that an international team of CARE officials from
their New York office, but also from some of their major regional offices,
have gone to St. Louis to discuss a major initiative with Monsanto,"
adds, "This could be a real problem."
GMO's in Every Pot? Last year, more than 27.8 million hectares of farmland
around the world was sown to genetically modified crops. Seventy seven
percent of this land was sown to transgenic seeds designed to tolerate
herbicide spraying. While the biggest market for biotech seed is in the
and Canada, South countries such as Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, and
China have also adopted the controversial seeds. Trials of Monsanto's
transgenic seeds in India have led to mass demonstrations and intense
debate in the media and in government. Similar debates are underway in
Brazil. In Europe, environmentalists, farmers, and consumers have joined
together to oppose the use of transgenic seeds.
* GMO's Handled by CARE? Blocked in Europe, is Monsanto trying to use
well-known aid agencies to win acceptance for its GMOs among farmers and
consumers in the South? "Monsanto officials genuinely believe they have
products that will solve the problem of food shortages in the next
century," Hope Shand of RAFI says. "The company may not be acting
cynically. They believe they can make money and solve hunger through GMOs
at the same time," Shand explains, "If the meeting with CARE is to use the
food aid agency to test and distribute their genetically-altered seeds
among poor farmers, both CARE and Monsanto are making a terrible mistake."
What exactly the goal is for the St. Louis talks? Are they to establish
soft loan programmes tied to Monsanto products, or to use CARE's field
offices to facilitate trials of genetically-engineered herbicide-tolerant
seeds? "Either way," Pat Mooney concludes, "neither party has the
credibility to pull this venture off. CARE will be lambasted for
jeopardizing the food security of farmers and Monsanto will be accused of
using CARE as 'cheap labour' for its commercial goals. Whatever their
intent, this indeed will be the result. I've talked with CARE negotiators
in New York and I'm hopeful that they understand the issues and will not
let their good name be used to pressure farmers into adopting Monsanto's
unsustainable approach to agriculture."
CARE Bears? Monsanto is transforming itself from being a traditional
chemical company into a dominant player in the Life Industry. In recent
years, Monsanto has spent more than $8.5 billion in acquiring seed
companies across the world. Many market analyst believe however, that
Monsanto has over-extended itself and is now weighed under by a huge debt
burden. In the midst of the world's longest running bull market, Monsanto
is on some investor's bear lists. Last year, Monsanto announced that it
would merge with American Home Products - another chemicals-turned-biotech
corporation more than twice Monsanto's size. The deal was eventually
off. Last week, the New York Times reported that Monsanto was holding
preliminary discussions with DuPont - a vastly larger multinational now
attempting to extricate itself from energy subsidiaries in order to buy
into the Life Industry. The message to many investors is that Monsanto is
company in trouble and looking for allies.
Monsanto, headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri (US) has 32,000 employees, a
market capitalization of $28 billion and 1998 revenues of $9 billion. The
company is reportedly in merger discussions with DuPont.
CARE, headquarters in New York (US) is a major non-profit, international
relief organization. In 1998, CARE delivered $339 million in aid to over
35.3 million people in 51 countries.
RAFI, the Rural Advancement Foundation International, is an international
civil society organization headquartered in Canada. RAFI is dedicated to
the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and to the socially
responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies. RAFI is
concerned about the loss of agricultural biodiversity, and the impact of
intellectual property on farmers and food security.
For More Information:
Pat Mooney Hope Shand
Executive Director, RAFI Director of Research, RAFI
110 Osborne Street, Suite 202 Centre for Public Service
WINNIPEG MB R3L 1Y5 Gettysburg College
CANADA Box 2456
Tel: (204) 453-5259 GETTYSBURG PA 17325
Fax: (204) 925-8034 USA
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (717) 337-6482
Fax: (717) 337-6499
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