GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

3-Food: Free trade activists and scientists promise that GE willfight hunger



-----------------------
genet-news mailing list
-----------------------

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  No end to world hunger without biotech - researchers
SOURCE: Reuters, by Tim Large
DATE:   Jul 3, 2003

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


No end to world hunger without biotech - researchers

TOKYO - War, drought and runaway population growth will thwart efforts to
halve global hunger by 2015 unless the full weight of science is brought
to bear on food production, a farm research group for developing
countries said on Wednesday.

Without urgent investment in agricultural development -- including
controversial biotechnology -- hundreds of millions will remain underfed
in coming years, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR) said.

"There'll be about a 50 percent increase in the world's population in the
next 50 years, from six billion to something like nine billion," former
World Bank president and CGIAR founder Robert McNamara told a seminar in
Tokyo.

"And the food requirement will increase by approximately 100 percent. I
don't know of any way to deal with that problem other than increasing
agricultural productivity...by applying the technology and knowledge we
have, and by research."

World leaders gathered in Rome last year to renew a 1996 pledge to halve
by 2015 the number of hungry from around 815 million in 1992. The United
Nations and others have since called that goal unrealistic, even by 2030.

"The world is not on track to cutting hunger at least by half by 2015,"
said Joachim Von Braun, director general of the International Food Policy
Research Institute (IFPRI), citing natural disasters, military conflicts
and unequal economic development.

CGIAR, which groups governments, research organisations and private
foundations, supports biotechnology to promote farm growth. That puts it
at loggerheads with opponents of genetically modified (GM) food who are
worried about safety risks.

The European Union has placed a moratorium on approvals of GM foods since
1998, while some African countries facing food shortages, including
Zambia and Zimbabwe, are so wary of gene-altered crops that they have
refused such food aid.


GREEN REVOLUTION FOR AFRICA?

CGIAR members said natural calamities, war, political corruption and
acute water shortages in many of the world's poorest countries made the
case for biotechnology more pressing than ever.

"I believe the opportunity is ripe for a green revolution in many poor
areas, including Cambodia and Africa," said Keijiro Otsuka, incoming
chairman of the International Rice Research Institute.

"East and southern African countries have been particularly neglected. In
my observation, they possess high-growth potential. According to my
calculations, with investment of $10-20 million, there can be
revolutionary changes in farming in Africa."

A so-called "green revolution" using innovative farm technologies boosted
food supplies in much of Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, reducing poverty levels.

Debate raged last year in southern Africa on whether to accept U.S.-
produced GM food aid that could have helped some 13 million facing
starvation but endangered countries' key export markets in Europe.

Zimbabwe, worst hit by the food crisis with six million people at risk,
said it would not accept imports of GM whole maize, citing fears local
farmers could use it as planting seed.

Other countries are struggling to fortify domestic crops against the
ravages of drought.

"North Africa, central Asia and west Africa have the biggest water
problems," said Adel El-Beltagy, director general of the International
Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas.

"We need to have intervention on two levels. One level is to optimise the
use of available water. The other is to change the genetic make-up of
plants to produce higher quality food as well as high yields with less water."

Some researchers acknowledged the need to address safety concerns.

"For us in the CGIAR, the key elements of new technology related to
biotech and infotech need to be brought to bear on the problems of small-
lot farmers," the IFPRI's Von Braun said.

"Of course, sound bio-safety policies are necessary for that."


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Africa's chance to feed its people
SOURCE: Inter Press Service, by Stefania Bianchi/ East African Standard, Kenya
        http://www.eastandard.net/archives/July/wed02072003/commentaries/
        column/col003.htm
DATE:   Jul 2, 2003

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


Africa's chance to feed its people

An African writer and activist James Shikwati made a strong appeal at a
forum in Brussels last for introduction of genetically modified crops to
feed the hungry.

Shikwati, who is director of the non-governmental organisation Inter-
Region Economic Network (Iren) based in Kenya, spoke at a meeting
organised by TechCentral Station, a US on-line journal on global public
affairs.

TechCentral Station promotes free markets and use of technology, but
acknowledges that such promotion raises important public issues.

Iren campaigns for policies that would support development of Africa. The
Brussels meeting was addressed also by Chris Wilson, US Trade Attache' to
the European Union.

The campaigner from Africa was clearly putting forward a case that seemed
to match US interests in breaking down EU opposition to genetically
modified (GM) foods.

Shikwati argued that Africa needs these crops. "Biotechnology would give
African farmers the freedom to produce their own goods instead of begging
donor countries," he said.

"Africa needs this investment and wants to make use of the technology."

Shikwati urged the EU to drop its five-year moratorium on GM foods. "With
insects destroying crops, Africans don't have a choice that their crops
live or die, but with GM crops this could change," he said.

"We want to explore GM technology and believe it could tackle pests and
save the starving." The EU has maintained a moratorium on the commercial
development of GM foods since 1999.

This has delayed the approval of GM crops and, according to the US,
forced African countries to refuse GM food aid. Last year famine-stricken
Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique turned down shipments of GM food from the
US because of health and environmental concerns. The countries were
worried also that they could lose their export market in the EU if their
crops were seen as contaminated by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Shikwati acknowledged EU concerns that African farmers could become
dependent on GM technology from the US, but insisted that such a
situation was still better than dependency on food aid.

"Food aid from abroad makes production difficult, but with GMOs farmers
could make a profit even if the seeds are expensive," he said.

Supporting Shikwati's case for GMOs at the meeting, Wilson told EU
officials present that a combination of biotechnology and economic

policies could play a significant role in reducing hunger in Africa.

"The world is on the threshold of an agricultural revolution," Wilson

said. "GMOs can reduce the cost of food production, help the environment,
reduce pesticides and feed the starving."

The case for GM crops did not go unchallenged at the meeting. Alexander
de Roo, vice-president of the Environment Committee at the European
Parliament and member of the Green Party, said the US was promoting GM
foods for its own financial gain.

"It's up to Africans if they want to buy GM food," he said. "I would
advise them not to, but what I don't understand is why there is so much
pressure from the US."

GM crops were first commercially cultivated in the early 1990s. It was
claimed they would increase resistance to pests and weed-killers,
increase yields, cut prices and enhance the nutritional value of crops.

Cultivation has expanded rapidly since then, especially in the US., which
now produces 68 per cent of GM food, followed by Argentina with 23 per
cent. Canada produces seven per cent and China one per cent.

The US grows biotech crops, mostly corn, over 96.3 million hectares. But
outside the US, and especially in Europe, GM foods have been criticised
by consumers as unsafe, unnecessary and bad for the environment.

The GM debate has become a particularly sensitive issue between the EU
and the US Last month US. President George Bush accused Europe of
"impeding" US efforts to fight famine in Africa because of "unfounded"
fears over GM foods.

The US. has taken its case to the World Trade Organisation, which deals
with trade rules between nations, to get the European Union to relax its
restrictions.

The EU, however, denies claims that its reluctance to allow new GM foods
is keeping developing countries away from these foods. Officials say they
simply need more time to develop systems for tracing and labelling GM
foods and feed.

EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy was quoted by the US Wall Street
Journal last month as saying that "choices for developing countries
should not mean accept GM food or starve".

Several consumer groups and civil society organisations say the US is
arguing the case for GM foods to promote its financial self-interest.

Juan Lopez of Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest
environment federation, told IPS that GM food cannot solve the food
crisis in Africa.

"GM crops aim to consolidate the big agribusiness control of a food
chain," he said. "They would just force small farmers in developing
countries out of business."

GM crops cannot solve the problem of hunger and food security in
developing countries, he said, "since they are not the right response to
the real causes of those problems, like debt, lack of infrastructure and
Western subsidies".


******

IREN is closely connected to those U.S. free trade activists who helped
to initiate the WTO GMO complaint:
http://www.irenkenya.org/resources.htm 


                                  PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Myths and lies turning GM into Frankenstein monster, scientists say
SOURCE: Agence France Press
        http://uk.news.yahoo.com/030707/323/e3u7b.html
DATE:   Jul 7, 2003

--------------------- archive: www.genet-info.org/services.html
--------------------


Myths and lies turning GM into Frankenstein monster, scientists say

MELBOURNE, Australia (AFP) - Myths and lies spread by the green movement
about the consequences of genetic modification (GM) are preventing the
use of new crops that could alleviate third-world famine, an
international conference has been told here.

The XIX International Congress of Genetics, which opened on Sunday, has
heard from world-renowned scientists that ignorance and paranoia has
turned genetic engineering into a monster feared when it should be hailed.

"Genetic engineering has been turned into this Frankenstein technology
and a lot of it is due to ignorance," last year's Nobel Prize winner,
South African scientist Sydney Brenner told the conference.

Kenyan scientist Florence Wambagu said anti-GM campaigners "play around
with the anxiety of the public and make them more anxious with myths and
lies".

Wambagu said poverty and not development or genetic modication were
causing the loss of bio-diversity in Africa and the continent faced a
food deficit without new technologies.

The scientists have also warned that anti-GM feeling in Europe had caused
the withdrawal of funding for some trials.

Swiss geneticist Klaus Ammann said European countries should not be
imposing their standards on Africa and other developing regions of the world.

The warnings support claims by US scientists that paranoia about gene
modification is preventing African countries from using new crops that
could relieve famine.

Australian state governments have also blocked the commercial release of
a genetically modified crop, GM canola, even though it was approved as
safe by a federal government regulator.

Craig Cormick, manager of public awareness for the Australian government
agency Biotechnology Australia said the general community was ignorant
about scientific facts, wrongly believing genetically modified organisms
were "unnatural" and unreasonably demanded "zero risk".

After peaking in 2001, public concern over GM foods and crops eased in
2002 but had risen again in the past 12 months, Cormick told reporters at
the congress.

"In the last four years debate about genetic technology has become
increasingly complex because it's broken up into foods, crops and
medicine," he said.

The congress was also told Monday that now the human genome has been
mapped, an international collaboration of genetic scientists has begun
working on the "Hapmap", which could shed new light on common conditions
like heart disease and diabetes.

Dr Francis Collins, director of the US National Human Genome Research
Institute said that compiling the Haplotype Map was one of the biggest
and most exciting projects since the mapping of the human genome which
was finalised in April.

While the genome is a record of the entire sequence of genes, the Hapmap
will be a catalogue of variants in the genetic sequence.

Once the genetic culprits in a disease have been identified, it becomes
possible to develop new treatments and even cures.

Collins said 15,000 genetic mutations had so far been linked to specific,
rare diseases.

However, hereditary factors contributing to diseases primarily
responsible for filling up hospital wards, such as cancer, diabetes and
heart disease, were proving more difficult to pin down.

This had led many scientists to conclude that common genetic variants,
rather than rare mutations, were the cause of the most common diseases.




--


GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)xs4all.be