3-Food: Food aid and the genetically modified organisms
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TITLE: Food aid and the genetically modified organisms
SOURCE: GE Free Latin America, by Elizabeth Bravo, email@example.com
DATE: November 2001
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
FOOD AID AND THE GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
Every human being has the right to food and access to healthy and
nutritional food. Along the same lines, every country and society has the
right to keep their food sovereignty, which is the right to decide how to
eat, according to their cultural standards and establishing control in the
Unfortunately, people are promoting a culture of insecurity that benefits
the biotechnological industry, becoming the biggest threat the food derived
from genetic engineering and transgenic produce.
The biotechnological corporations have launched campaigns by means of mass
media, government, and academic institutions trying to impose transgenic
food. They have a big investment to care for. By achieving global
acceptance, they would be able to control the food chain.
In a global scenario, the main grain importers are on one side, countries
such as the European Union, Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In
these countries, transgenic food is being rejected by the consumers, due to
its potential risks. This has generated a great surplus of transgenic food
and considerable losses to farmers throughout the USA (the number one
producers of transgenic produce).
On the other side is the Third World that is being increasingly attacked by
disasters. It is within these poverty-stricken regions of the globe, that
the large biotechnological corporations have set their sights, and they are
about to become a backyard where all the rejected transgenic food will
One of the strategies being used is the food aid.
POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF FOOD AID
Developed countries must allocate 0.7% of their budget to official
development aid and each country has its policies on how to handle this aid.
One component of political development assistance that the United States
applies is the food aid. Food Aid constitutes a mechanism to place the
agricultural surplus, promote the aperture of new markets for their
products, and influence on other country politics.
We can use the PL 480 Program as an example. This is the biggest food aid
program in that country. The PL 480 constitutes an important instrument to
market expansion, and has helped to position agricultural produce that
couldn't have been otherwise.
Through this program they sell produce to Third World countries with long
term credits via the Commodity Credit Corporation. The funds are managed by
the same organization (concession credit) and the fate of these funds
varies upon the mediation of the resources.
Although we are talking about sold produce, these products have effects on
local producers, because they are sold at a lower, subsidized price, while
the market prices are much higher. These programs are handled by the USAID.
The USAID operates through intermediaries, who constitute expensive
international bureaucracies. A large percentage of this help is allocated
The requirements that the US establishes for their Aid include the
- Restriction to imports of similar agricultural produce (avoiding
competition with others)
- The food must be transported using USA's companies, regardless of their
fees being higher to those established by the international market. This
results in better businesses for their merchant marine.
Food aid constitutes an additional subsidy to the American agricultural
produce. We, on the other hand, become dependent of that aid, as is the
case with wheat. In the 1970's, several Andean countries became dependent
on wheat food aid provided by the US. These countries switched from being
self-sufficient to importing 97% of their wheat.
Food aid puts us in a position of severe disadvantage against US producers,
since local farmers must compete with highly subsidized produce.
The northern countries have refused to accept the changes in their
agricultural policies imposed by the worldwide Commerce Organization, such
as the removal of subsidy to exports and to tariffs. In Third World
countries, these policies have begun to be implemented, taking away from
Let's continue talking about the wheat subsidy example. We can see that the
US subsidizes wheat exports. In opposition to this, other countries have
subsidies to wheat imports, because they assume that imported wheat is of
better quality. This is a direct threat against food sovereign of
countries. Meanwhile the US takes all possible measures to avoid
competition for their produce around the world, via imposing tax-free
policies that could instead be related to salaries or environmental issues.
People frequently argue that food aid benefits the commercial balance of
the benefited countries, short and long term, because it stops importing.
However, the donated food is guiding the production structure towards a new
structure of consumption based on imported raw materials. This generates a
smaller investment in the production industry and forces in new and
different food parameters.
On the other hand, food aid conditions our political freedom. The aid
during these years has forced countries to accept reforms to the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, with impacts that are being
felt in various areas of the world.
Food Aid has always been used to achieve political goals for the USA. As an
example, we can mention a situation that took place in the 1970's during
the war in Indochina: 70% of the help went to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
During the 1980's, it was directed to Salvador, because of their civil war,
and to Egypt, USA's doorway to the Middle East. If we look at the 1990's,
we'll see that the support leaned towards Eastern European countries to
sustain their transition into a market economy.
Since the 1980's, help has been given to those countries that benefit free
FOOD AID AND NATURAL DISASTERS
Due to global issues such as weather variations, natural disasters are more
frequent and the magnitude of their damages is greater.
In situations of natural disasters, it is the state's duty to tend for the
interests and survival of its population. It is common for governments
then, to get external help through food aid.
It is important to highlight the role that the media has played in
circumstances such as these. They use these crises to promote US food aid
programs. They seem to forget to mention the causes of those disasters,
such as environmental deterioration and the conditions of social exclusion
that many Third World regions live in.
Once the crisis ends, frequently the food aid increases, instead of
decreasing, becoming a systematic action and creating dependency to
imported food for the receiving country.
To summarize, the aid empowers the USA to:
- allocate their agricultural surplus
- limit international market competition
- generate income for their companies, such as freight companies
- get involved in political issues concerning the receiving countries
promote their international policies
The impacts for the receiving countries are as follows:
- displacement of local produce
- agreement to USA policies
- loss of capacity for local production
- reduce employment sources resulting in poverty
- become dependent to imported food and change their eating habits
FOOD AID AND TRANSGENIC FOOD
Ever since transgenic food was introduced into the market, the rejection
that consumers in industrialized countries have presented has been noted,
especially in Europe and Japan. This has a direct effect in Third World
countries; we have become a dumping place of transgenic supply. We receive
the food at low cost or through food aid.
Food aid, is the last non-regulated export market open to US farmers. It is
very hard for poor countries confronted with natural disasters and constant
economic crisis to refuse this aid. The Department of Agriculture in the US
is exporting thousands of tons of transgenic soy and wheat through food aid
agencies. In 1999 the US Government donated 500.000 tons of wheat and wheat
products. One can say that 30% of that aid was provided using genetically
modified produce, according to USAID. Very lucrative contracts took place
Companies like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill won a third of those
contracts for a total of 140 million dollars in 1999.
The United Nations aren't sure how much of the help received is transgenic,
nor do they have policies regarding this issue. The World Food Program
receives almost half of their yearly budget from the US. Their executive
Director is an ex-employee of the Department of Agriculture in the US. This
help comes from the wheat-producing region of this country.
The presence of transgenics in food aid is not a possibility anymore. It's
presence has been detected is several countries throughout the world,
including India, where transgenic food was distributed to Typhoon victims;
the Andean region (Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia), and Nicaragua, amongst
others. This has caused rejection through the population and of some
The organizations that are under the umbrella of the "GE Free Latin
America" unite to this rejection.
| GENET |
| European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering |
| Hartmut MEYER (Mr) |
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