GENTECH archive


OXFAM's Support to GM Crops for the Third World ??

Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 12:53:44 +0500
From: Vandana Shiva <

Open letter to OXFAM

From:  Dr. Vandana Shiva               4th Nov 99
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
A-60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi - 110 017
Fax: 0091 11 6856795

OXFAM's Support to GM Crops for the Third World

Dear Friends at Oxfam,

I have just received a copy of your position on GMOs and WTO and it has
saddened and disappointed me.

While Oxfam has been an NGO leader on food security issues, and it has
been part of the mobilisation for a moratorium on G.M. crops in U.K., it
is now calling for donor support for developing of G.M. technologies in
developing countries.

Oxfam sees the "need for public investment and incentives to promote
private investment in G.M. research and innovation benefiting poor farmers
and low income consumers".

In its position paper on "G.M. crops, WTO and Food Security", Oxfam

Donor governments and agencies commit resources for investment in research
into the potential opportunities presented by applications of G.M. to
deliver environmental and health benefits pertaining to small holder
agriculture in adverse agroecological zones.

We feel that Oxfam risks betraying the South, the poor and food security
objectives by calling for support for promotion of G.M. crops in the South
instead of calling for support for ecological and sustainable agriculture
which is much better suited to the small farmers in adverse agroecological

Research from our own programmes in India and studies worldwide are
countering the myth that ecological agriculture has low productivity and
low returns.  Farmers in fact have a tripling of incomes by getting off
the chemical treadmill and getting out of the debt trap created by
purchase of costly seeds and chemicals.

Because G.E. free agriculture is good for the poor and good for the
environment. We have launched the "Bija Satyagraha" which includes the
creation of G.E. free zones in agriculture as pact of the National Food
Rights Campaign in India, in which more than 2,500 groups participate.

As a leading NGO funder and development agency, we hope Oxfam will join
our call for freedom from G.E. in the South.  Oxfam should join the
worldwide campaign for promoting alternatives to both chemical agriculture
and genetic engineering while calling for a moratorium on G.M. crops.

The focus on promotion of G.M. crops in the Third World, and the total
absence of recommendations relating to the promotion of sustainable,
ecological agriculture will on the one hand deprive the poor of
ecological, decentralised production systems.  On the other hand it
carries a major risk of creating a nutritional apartheid - with northern
consumers having G.E. free foods and the poor in the South being condemned
to a future based on G.E. crops and foods.

At this juncture in history, we need a joining of environment and
development concerns, we need a combining of producer and consumer
interests, we need North South solidarity.  With such a joining of forces,
people's power will be successful in controlling the corporate
Biotechnology giants and promoting ecological options for small farmers.

We hope Oxfam will review its G.M. policy for the Third World and be part
of the global movement for a sustainable and equitable agriculture.

Oxfam spends  #13m a year on projects linked to crop production.  It
provides #10m assistance for food aid and trades in 60 food products
through the Oxfam Fair Trade Company.  It, therefore, has an influential
role in setting food security agendas.

Oxfam will definitely be assisting to provide relief in the recent
disaster caused by the super cyclone in Orissa. We hope your food aid will
be G.E. free and that in the rehabilitation programmes you will help
distribute open pollinated varieties and indigenous varieties of seeds so
that farmers are not made dependent on costly inputs.

We look forward to working with Oxfam on these urgent issues.

Yours sincerely,

 Vandana Shiva