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8-Misc: Asian-Pacific NGOs and farmer groups alarmed by formation of Syngenta

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Asian Pacific NGOs and farmers groups alarmed by the creation of
        the world's largest agrochemical corporation
SOURCE: People's Caravan 2000,, press release
DATE:   October 25, 2000

------------------ archive: ------------------

The People's Caravan 2000 - Land and Food Without Poisons!

Asian Pacific NGOs and Farmers Groups Alarmed by the Creation of the 
World's Largest Agrochemical Corporation

Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), a coalition of over 
150 groups in 18 countries, is alarmed by the merger of Novartis and 
AstraZeneca creating the world's largest agrochemical corporation, Syngenta.

According to a report by a pan-European coalition of NGOs, Syngenta will 
posses more than 40 per cent of the world's patents on genetic engineering 
technologies that can restrict plant reproduction, growth and development. 
These technologies either render crops sterile or control their genetic 
traits via chemicals. This is in contravention of previous commitments by 
both companies not to pursue these technologies*. It also contradicts the 
high profile, consumer-driven, 'anti-genetic engineering' position taken by 
Novartis in claiming to have withdrawn genetically engineered ingredients 
from its product lines worldwide.

Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN AP, says genetic use restriction 
technologies trap farmers into an expensive seed and pesticide package. 
They will be forced to purchase seeds every planting season that are 
dependent on chemical inducers to switch on and off plant characteristics 
for yield, height, nutrition, flowering, ageing, disease resistance, etc.

Sterile seeds are unable to germinate thereby disabling farmers the right 
to save seeds for replanting-crucial for the food security of communities. 
Approximately 1.4 billion farmers rely on saved seeds.

Furthermore, sterile, chemically dependent crops will increase the sales of 
unnecessary and dangerous agricultural inputs. The report by the pan-
European coalition of NGOs states Novartis and AstraZeneca have taken out 
11 new patents to render crops dependent on chemicals.

According to the South-North Development Monitor the new Syngenta will be 
the third largest seed supplier in the world.

"Farmers around the world are being pushed into planting genetically 
engineered crops with all their human health and environmental risks, with 
no guarantee as to the future market of genetically engineered food 
products" comments Ms. Rengam.

Farmers in the U.S. have taken exception to the new Novartis policy, 
claiming it to be a double standard. Novartis produces Ovaltine, Gerber 
baby foods, Wasa crackers and a variety of 'health foods'.

To alert millions of farmers, consumers and producers of these 
developments, various NGOs, farmers groups and anti-genetic engineering 
advocates across the Asia Pacific region will hold a People's Caravan - 
"Citizens on the Move for Land and Food Without Poisons!" from November 13-

According to Rafael Mariano, Chairperson of KMP (Peasant Movement of the 
Philippines), "The caravan will expose the immoral and unethical practices 
of agrochemical transnational corporations (TNCs) in their push for 
corporate control and dominance of our food production systems." This issue 
will be addressed as one major theme threatening farmer's livelihoods, food 
security and the production of safe food.

In attempting to provide answers to the apparent conflict of interest 
between its anti-genetic engineering stance and the company's highly 
visible and blatant promotion of genetically engineered seeds and 
agricultural biotechnology, Novartis comments: "All our business centres 
operate independently in totally different markets. The market for seeds is 
totally different from the market for food products."

The People's Caravan will kick off on November 13 in Chennai, India; 
followed by Bangladesh on November 19, and culminate in Manila, Philippines 
between November 26-30. The caravan is organised by the Tamil Nadu Women's 
Forum (TNWF) and the Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) of 
India; UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives) and the 
Nayakrishi Andolon (New Agriculture Movement) of Bangladesh; the Kilusang 
Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines); with PAN AP 
in collaboration with SHISUK, Bangladesh; CIKS and PREPARE, India; Gita 
Pertiwi, Indonesia; NESSFE, Japan; CACPK, Korea; and Food First, U.S.A.

The People's Caravan launched a signature campaign based on the People's 
Caravan Statement on World Food Day calling for a total ban on the release, 
use, and trade of genetically modified seeds and organisms in food and 
agriculture and especially protested and rejected the development of 
genetically engineered rice!

*Explanatory Note: Novartis said in February this year that they had "a 
longstanding policy that we will not use genetic use restriction technology 
to prevent seed germination." In a letter last year to London based 
ActionAid, Zeneca Agrochemicals CEO, Michael Pragnelli stated: "Zeneca has 
no interest in trying to change farmers' traditional practice of saving 
seed and in fact we decided in 1993 not to develop and bring to market any 
system which would prevent farmers from doing this. We have no intention of 
revising this decision." (Source: South-North Development Monitor, October 
19, 2000. "Development agencies concerned over new merger")

For more information on the creation of Syngenta contact:
Francois Meienberg, Berne Declaration on 41 1 277 7004
Alex Wijeratna at ActionAid on 44(0) 20 7561 7613
Sue Mayer at GeneWatch UK on 44 (0) 1298 871 898
Pernilla Malmer at Swedish Society for Nature Conservation on 46 8 702 6581

For more information on the People's Caravan contact:
PAN AP (Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific)
Jennifer Mourin, Campaigns and Media Coordinator OR Sarah Hindmarsh
Program Assistant Genetic Engineering Campaign
Tel: (60-4) 657-0271/ 656-038
Fax: (604) 657-7445
E-mail: or visit the People's Caravan
Web site:

TNWF (Tamil Nadu Women's Forum) and SRED (Society for Rural Education and 
Development) c/o SRED

UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives), and Nayakrishi 

KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines)

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