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3-Food: Force-feeding the world

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SOURCE: Genetic Food Alert, UK, by Robert Vint
DATE:   Aug 22, 2002

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America's 'GM or Death' ultimatum to Africa reveals the depravity of its GM
marketing policy

Robert Vint, UK Coordinator of Genetic Food Alert, investigates. 1


 In 1998 Monsanto sent an appeal to all Africa's Heads of State, entitled
'Let The Harvest Begin',2 which called upon them to endorse GM crops. Monsanto
were following the advice of the world's leading PR company to avoid the
'killing fields' of health and environmental issues in the GM debate, such as the
absence of independent safety testing, and to shift the debate to focus on
supposed benefits for the poor. Western 'greens' should be singled out for
demonisation for preventing biotech corporations from 'feeding the world'.

Ministers in Western governments have been bombarded with propaganda calling
upon them to ignore the 'selfish' objections of their own citizens -
consumers, health advocates, environmentalists and food retailers - because this
technology was the only hope for the world's poor. American TV audiences have
seen hundreds of adverts depicting smiling well-fed Third World farmers
joyfully growing GM crops. None of this propaganda is based on fact and,
significantly, none of it originates from the nations that would supposedly benefit from
this technology.

Monsanto's letter-writing exercise could well have been the most
catastrophic PR stunt in history. In response the Food and Agriculture representative of
every African nation (except South Africa) signed a joint statement called
'Let Nature's Harvest Continue' that utterly condemns Monsanto's policy. It
stated: "[We] strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our
countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a
technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial
to us",y "we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and
the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for
millenia, and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves".2

Since that memorable occasion four years ago none of these African nations
have accepted GM food or crops. The situation is no better for Monsanto in
other parts of the Global South.

Europeans were told that their insistence on labelling and regulation of GM
food and crops would restrict the development of a technology desperately
needed by the poor. But no poor nation was to be heard making such claims. What
are we to make of the claims when dozens of poor nations themselves decide to
regulate, label or ban these products? And how sincere does American concern
for the poor appear when their Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick,
responds by threatening these nations with sanctions? Such threats are numerous:

* America's treatment of Sri Lanka is one of the most shameful examples of
its coercive policies. Sri Lanka's Health Ministry banned GM imports for a
year on 1st May 2000, because of the untested nature of GM foods, and renewed
this ban on 1st May 2001 after the discovery of imported chocolates, oils and
soups containing GMOs. Within ten days the US began to use the WTO to threaten
sanctions. As a result the new import ban was postponed to 1st September
2001, but the President sent a 'strongly worded' letter to President Bush to
demand that the US stopped dumping untested GM foods in his country. US threats
continued and by August peasant groups across Asia were protesting about
them. Hundreds of letters of solidarity were sent to the Sri Lankan Government.
On the 14th August a petition from 200 organisations demanding an end to US
threats was presented the Bush Government. "Sri Lanka should not be subject to
oversight or punitive action by the WTO because of its efforts to protect its
citizens from the unknown risks posed by genetically modified organisms,"
the groups said in their letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.
These appeals were ignored and on 3rd September Sri Lanka surrendered to
threats from the US backed up by its ally Australia. 3

* Mexico's Senate unanimously backed GM food labelling in November 2000.
Within three months the USA was threatening to impose sanctions via NAFTA - the
North American Free Trade Area - unless the decision was reversed.4

* The Secretary-General of the Thai Food and Drug Administration revealed in
July 2001 that a US trade delegation had threatened to impose trade
sanctions on Thailand if proposals to label GM foods were approved.5

* China introduced GM food labels and documentation requirements for GM
imports in May 2001. By October Ann Veneman, US Agriculture Secretary (and
previously Director of a Monsanto subsidiary), was objecting to the inspection of
imports of US GM soya. By March 2002 China had been forced to 'temporarily'
abandon its inspections and to allow unregulated imports of US GM soya.

* Similar sanctions threats have also been issued by the USA against
wealthier nations such as Canada (March 2002 in response to plans to introduce
labelling), Argentina (Monsanto Warns Argentina to Loosen GE Crop Restrictions
April 2002) and the entire European Union (for labelling GM food and for
regulating GM crops)

These acts of diplomatic terrorism by the USA may be objectionable but some
of the steps it has taken to force acceptance of GM food and crops by these
nations are more extreme. America reasoned that if no-one else wanted the
crops then at least starving nations would accept them. As one USAID spokesman
said "beggars can't be choosers". America is now the majority stakeholder in
the World Food Programme, which it uses to facilitate the dumping of its crop
surplusses, so it was not difficult to ensure that its unsellable GM crops
ended up in virtually all WFP aid packages. As the World Food Programme's
previous American Executive Director, Catherine Bertini, boasted: "Food is power.
We use it to change behavior. Some may call that bribery. We do not
apologize".1 But America is finding that it cannot even give its GM crops away:

* In March 2000 The Independent (UK) reported on growing protests in an
article entitled 'America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry'. It
stated that 'Aid is the last unregulated export market open to US farmers as
worried European and Asian consumers shun GM grain and introduce strict import and
labelling rules' and reported on protests by the Malaysia-based Third World
Network and by Ethiopia's Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher who, on behalf of an
alliance of Third World nations, stated "Countries in the grip of a crisis..
..should not be faced with a dilemma between allowing a million people to starve
to death and allowing their genetic pool to be polluted".6 A report by Food
First (USA) written around this time concluded: "The US food aid system
appears to disregard the rights and concerns of recipient citizens in order to
assure profits for US agribusiness giants. It is a system that allows for the
misspending of public funds in ways that benefit the private sector; a system
that takes advantage of the lack of regulation concerning the genetic
engineering of food; and a system that undermines democratic decision making about
food consumption ".7

* In the Philippines in April 2000 the nation's main farmers union, the KMP,
protested about USAID dumping unsellable GM food on the country via the WFP.
Rafael Mariano, chair of the KMP, condemned the deal, saying "The US
Department of Agriculture does not conceal the true objectives of the program. It
shamelessly describes the 'Food for Peace' as a 'concessional sales program to
promote exports of US agricultural commodities'".8 South Africa's Biowatch
joined in the protests, stating "Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world.
To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an
attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid".8

* In June that year cyclone-hit Orissa, India, was the unknowing recipient
of unlabelled and illegal GM food aid from the US. India's Research Foundation
for Science, Technology and Ecology detected the dumping, condemned it as a
hidden subsidy for America's biotech industry and issued a declaration
calling for a ban on the practice.9

* The Association of Burundi Consumers (ABUCO) and other organisations wrote
to President Clinton in September 2000 to protest about dumping of
unlabelled maize in Burundi and to ask why food exported to Europe was labelled but
food aid to Africa was not.10

* In January 2001 Bosnian officials rejected 40,000 tonnes of GM animal feed
provided as aid by the US.11

* Equador halted imports of World Food Programme aid for poor children in
May 2001 after the children held protests outside the WFP offices.12 The food
was from the USA and 55% of the ingredients were GM so making it illegal in

* Later, in April 2001, Bolivians were furious to discover that their food
aid from the USA contained high levels of GM soya and cornmeal - which were
illegal under Bolivian law. US Ambassador Manuel Rocha, ignoring the
regulations, told Bolivia that "if they didn't like genetically engineered food, they
should think twice about ever visiting the US because that is what we offer to
visitors."14 Tests of Bolivian food aid in 2002 have revealed Star Link corn
and other varieties banned in the EU.

* In May 2001 tests arranged by Colombia Consumers (COCO) of Colombian food
aid supplied to the National Program of Food and Nutrition Program revealed
that the soya was an incredible 90% genetically modified.15

* In June 2000 Guatemalans protested about the presence of GM corn in
imported aid for drought-hit peasants,16 while eight leading Nicaraguan
organisations made similar complaints about the activities of the WFP and USAID after
food samples tested positive for GM. A US Embassy spokesperson said
emphatically, "We are not using genetically-altered seeds. Neither USAID nor any other
agency is promoting or financing the distribution of such seeds within
Nicaragua." Representatives of the World Food Programme also issued 'denials' which
on close reading did not deny anything.17

* In the last few months America's controlling stake in the World Food
Programme has given it the power to exploit Africa's crisis by offering its 'GM or
Death' ultimatum to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is only because the
US can prevent the WFP from purchasing available non-GM food from Southern
nations that it able to tell these nations that they must buy GM maize, that
they must buy it from the US and that it must be unmilled.

Financially, this aid primarily benefits the US biotech industry rather than
the poor. The US offered Zambia $50 million (the annual sum the biotech
industry spends on TV ads) on strict condition that it only be spent on GM maize
from the USA. India has vast surplus stocks of rice - 65 times as much as
Africa needs - that would be available at half the cost of the US maize, but
Zambia is forbidden to buy this with the money. Similar conditions were imposed
on Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi. Zambia's response marks the
death of the 'feeding the world' PR strategy. Referring to the maize, President
Levy Mwanawasa said "if it is not fit then we would rather starve" 18 - and
the national paper added "If the US insists on imposing this genetically
modified maize on our people, we will be justified in questioning their motive".18

In a region devastated by HIV/AIDS, where much of the population have
deficient immune systems, where bacterial diseases are widespread and where
outdated antibiotics are in widespread use there are sound medical reasons to reject
crops containing genes for antibiotic resistance. This is the very reason
for which they have been rejected in Europe. 19

Monsanto and its Government cronies are desperate for real television
footage of starving Africans gratefully eating GM food - so desperate that they
would allow millions to starve if they fail. But independent experts agree that
agricultural biotechnology is, at best, irrelevant to famine prevention.

American GM agricultural systems are irrelevant to poor and famine-stricken
nations. US farms employ under 2 million farmers yet will require in 2002 a
subsidy of over 20 thousand million dollars. This subsidy does not help
American family farms, most of which face bankruptcy, but it does provide an
essential indirect subsidy to the biotech corporations. Poorer nations cannot
support agricultural systems that are so capital-intensive and that employ so few.

Indian food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma, says: "Somehow,
biotechnologists prefer to turn a blind eye to the ground realities, missing the
realities from the commercial interests of the biotechnology industries. In
their over-enthusiasm to promote an expensive technology at the cost of the
poor, they have forgotten that biotechnology has the potential to further the
great divide between the haves and have-nots.. .. Biotechnology will, in
reality, push more people in the hunger trap. With public attention and resources
being diverted from the ground realities, hunger will only grow in the years
to come".20 Ethiopia's Food and Agriculture spokesman, Tewolde Egziabher,
agrees, adding "this notion that genetically engineered crops will save
developing countries misses the real point. The world has never grown as much food per
capita as it is doing now, yet the world has also never had as many hungry.
The problem is not the amount of food produced, but how it is both produced
and distributed. For example, farmers in developing countries who buy
genetically engineered seeds that cannot reproduce--and so can't be saved and used
for next year's crop--become tied to transnational companies like Monsanto".21

A Christian Aid report states "GM crops are taking us down a dangerous farm
track creating classic preconditions for hunger and famine" 22, whilst an
ActionAid statement concludes "The use and patenting of GM food and farming
technologies in developing countries could have extremely serious economic
implications.. ..the worst off are likely to be the poorest farmers.. ..this may
ultimately lead to the very poorest leaving farming altogether, exacerbating
the shift to cities and increasing urban poverty".23

Even Steve Smith, Director of biotech corporation Novartis (now Syngenta),
admitted in 2000 that " If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the
world, tell them that it is not. To feed the world takes political and financial

There is no global shortage of food, nor is there likely to be one in the
near future. Europe and America destroy surplus crops each year - but so do
some of the poorest nations. The problem is not production but distribution.
During every famine the affected nation exports food. Millions of people -
including many farm labourers - are now too poor to buy the crops grown in their
own nations - or even on the land they work. They starve while much of the
world's food crops are bought by the West to feed cattle, pigs and chickens -
and while much of the farmland is used, as required by the IMF, to grow cotton,
coffee, tobacco and flowers for export. The millions of tons of surplus
Indian rice that the Zambians are forbidden to buy is rotting in warehouses
because the poor of India cannot afford to buy it. Malawi, too, had non-GM
surplusses until a few months ago, but was required by the World Bank to sell them
to service its debt.

GM crops can do nothing to address the true causes of famine. Inasmuch as
they benefit wealthy farmers - who can afford the GM seeds and the chemicals
that must be used with them - at the expense of smallholders, GM crops actually
exacerbate the inequality that causes famine. Exported GM cash crops, such
as Bt cotton and 'controlled-ripening' coffee, will not feed the poor - nor
will profits from them go to the poor to enable them to buy food.

GM 'controlled-ripening' coffee, being developed in the USA, does away with
the need for coffee-pickers - so threatening with unemployment (and therefore
malnutrition) up to 60 million destitute coffee-pickers in over 50

The 'Vision 2020' development project in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India,
will involve the clearance of 20 million cotton growers and other
smallholders from the land to make way for vast automated plantations of GM cotton. The
wealthiest landlords will profit whilst millions of refugees will face
starvation. 26

A handful of biotech corporations, such as Monsanto, now have virtual
monopoly control of agricultural seed and chemical sales in many Southern nations -
making the food security of these nations vulnerable to stock-market
fluctuations. The corporations have the power to buy up any local seed company and
thereby remove traditional seed varieties from the market. To ensure a
continuing market for their products they are determined to destroy the traditional
practice of saving seed from one harvest for planting in the next season. If
farmers use their own seeds they will not buy from corporations. To prevent
this practice the companies already give priority to the marketing of F1
hybrids - plants that produce sterile offspring. But even more desirable for them
are 'terminator crops' - seeds genetically modified to ensure that they grow
into sterile crops - and 'traitor crops' - crops genetically modified so that
they fail to grow or ripen unless sprayed with a chemical bought from the
same company. Only when the biotech companies have monopolised the seed
industry and forced Third World nations to accept GM crops will they be able to
universalise Terminator and Traitor crops and so permanently trap Third World

Through the 'GM or Death' aid policy it may be possible to force the poor to
eat GM food but it still seems difficult to force poor nations to plant GM
crops. The most effective technique is to ensure that they are planted without
consent. Several nations have discovered that GM seeds have been illegally
sold to farmers without their consent - sometimes GM seed has deliberately
been marketed as conventional seed, often conventional seed supplies contain
suspiciously high levels of GM contamination and, finally, GM seeds provided as
food aid have been accidentally planted by farmers. This seems to be the
cause of the widespread GM contamination of maize in Mexico, where GM varieties
are banned.

Deliberate contamination through food aid neatly complements America's
strategy of forcing GM food down the throats of the starving. Having successfully
contaminated Mexico, America hopes to repeat the exercise across southern
Africa. America has made it very clear to the African nations obliged to receive
its aid that it will only provide whole kernels of maize and will not mill
them to prevent them from growing. They know that wealthy farmers in these
nations, desperate to obtain seed corn for next year's crop, will be able to pay
more for this corn than will the starving poor. Once GM crops are illegally
growing throughout southern Africa, America reasons, how will they be able to
ban these crops?

GM crops have no future. The people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and
Latin America refuse to eat them. Farmers in India,27 Brazil 28 and the
Phillippines 29 are burning and destroying them. The people of America are
blissfully unaware of their existence - but, when asked, 93% want GM food labelled
and most would try to avoid it. In response the share values of Monsanto are
crashing. The US is on the verge of a GM trade war with the rest of the world.
Now the principal marketing strategy of the biotech indus try, refined over
the years, has descended into blatant terrorism that threatens the food
security of dozens of nations and the lives of millions.

1) Available as formatted Word document from
Robert Vint, National Coordinator
Genetic Food Alert



2 Selling Suicide: farming, false promises and genetic engineering in
developing countries. Christian Aid
3 PANAP Press Release 14 August 2001 Asian Groups Strongly Protest U.S.
Threat of WTO Retaliation on Sri Lankan GMO Ban
4 US Agribusiness Fights Mexico Mandatory Labels for GE Foods IS MEXICO
4 Industry mobilizes to modify Mexico's labeling measures February 12, 2001
-- Cropchoice news
5 US threatened trade sanctions to block GM labels, says Thai FDA editorial team  July 19, 2001
6 America finds ready market for GM food - the hungry By Declan Walsh
Independent (UK) 30 March 2000
7 Food Aid in the New Millenium - Genetically Engineered Food and Foreign
Assistance Food First (USA)
8 'Farmers decry dumping of hazardous GMOs from relief agencies, biotech
firms'. KMP Press Release, 14th April 2000
9 Action Alert (June 2000) STOP DUMPING GE FOOD! Research Foundation for
Science, Technology and Ecology, India
report by Burundi news agency Net Press on 5th September Source: Net Press news
agency, Bujumbura, in French 1834 gmt 05 Sep 00.BBC Worldwide Monitoring/ (c)
BBC 2000.
11 "Humanitarian" GM corn: U.S. Withdraws Genetically Engineered Corn -
Animal Feed Donation After Bosnia's Hesitation SARAJEVO, Jan 30, 2001 -- Agence
France Presse
2001 Info & Photos from Red por una America Latina Libre de Transgenicos
Casilla 17-15-246-C Quito  Ecuador
14 Let Them Eat Scrambled DNA: Genetically Altered Crops Included In
Bolivian Food Relief 22 Sept 2001 Earth Island Journal
ANDEAN REGION  05 May 2001 Red por una America Latina Libre de Transgenicos
17 Environmentalists Accuse World Food Program and USAID of Distributing
Genetically-Modified Foods SOURCE: NicaNet, May 27, 2002
18 Dignity in hunger, The Post, Zambia, Editorial, July 30, 2002
19 British Medical Association report: The Impact of Genetic Modification on
Agriculture, Food and Health 1999 ISBN 07279 1431 6
20 Biotechnology will bypass the hungry. Devinder Sharma. AgBioIndia Mailing
28 June 2002
21 Why poor nations would lose in a biotech war on hunger. Marilyn Berlin
Snell interviews Tewolde Egziabher. Sierra Magazine, July/August
22 Selling Suicide: farming, false promises and genetic engineering in
developing countries. Christian Aid
 23  AstraZeneca and its genetic research: Feeding the world or fuelling
hunger?  ActionAid 1999 ISBN 1 872502 59 8
24 Steve Smith, SCIMAC and Novartis (now SYNGENTA), Tittleshall Village Hall
public meeting on proposed local GM farm scale trial, 29th March 2000
25 Robbing Coffee's Cradle....   ActionAid
26 Prajateerpu: A Citizens' Jury/Scenario Workshop on Food and Farming
Futures for Andhra Pradesh, India.  IIED 2002  ISBN 1 84369 191 4
27 Cremation Monsanto continues in Karnataka 05/01/02
28 Friday January 26, 8:57 am Eastern Time Brazilian farmers storm Monsanto,
uproot plants 
AGAINST MONSANTO by Greg Alvarez, Secretary General, KMP- Far Southern Mindanao





GRAINS OF DELUSION: Golden Rice Seen From the Ground: Joint report by
BIOTHAI (Thailand), CEDAC (Cambodia), DRCSC (India), GRAIN, MASIPAG (Philippines),
PAN-Indonesia and UBINIG (Bangladesh) February
[Also available as a PDF File: Adobe Acrobat needed to read it]

KMP Peasant Movement of the Philippines


GM Third World Warning (BBC News)

Third World rejects GM (Independent)


USDA PUSHING GENE FOODS ON THIRD WORLD By Devinder Sharma, Pakistan Observer


Selling suicide - farming, false promises and genetic engineering in
developing countries
Biotechnology and genetically modified organisms
The Biosafety Protocol - controlling trade in GMOs

GMOs and the WTO: Overruling the right to say no
The Biosafety Protocol: Agreed in Montreal
The Battle for International Rules on GMOs: The biotech industry versus the
world's poor
Genetically modified seeds: Corporate control over farmers in the Third

GRAIN: Genetics Resources Action International

Rural Advancement Foundation International

Food First

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Corner House Briefing 10 on Genetic Engineering & World Hunger

Genetic Engineering: Can it Feed the World? GeneWatch Briefing

Feeding the World? Jules Pretty examines the myths and realities of
sustainable farming's quiet revolution

Suspend GM Crops For 5 Years demand Scientists from South & North

Corner House Briefing 10 on Genetic Engineering and World Hunger


Hartmut Meyer           CONTACT UNTIL
Kleine Wiese 6        September 10, 2002:
Germany              mobile: +49-162-1054755

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