SnowBall archive


GE - Third World rejects GM and India halts trials

In a bid to overcome resistance in European markets (where the most
lucrative financial opportunities are) to GM products, biotechnology
companies have been emphasising the need for this technology to feed the
world.  However, food supply problems throughout the world are generally
accepted by aid agencies to have their roots primarily in general
socio-economic problems (civil war, land rights etc) rather than technical
limitations on agricultural production. It is common for hunger to be
prevalent even in countries that have food surpluses.  The issue is
frequently one of general social development rather than agricultural

The two reports below confirm that the developing countries themselves
overwhelmingly reject the use of genetic engineering as the solution to
their problems of poverty and hunger.

The fact that this rejection of GM technology is being led by Ethiopia sends
a strong signal to governments around the world that this technology is not
acceptable to the majority of people on the planet and that the interests of
business should not be placed before the well being of global society and
the environment as a whole.

It is ironic that the chief proponent of this technology is the United
States, whose own farmers are facing bankruptcy because of over production
and record low farm product prices.  The US government lifted administrative
restraints on American agricultural production in 1996.

For this reason the US is desperate to find agricultural export markets for
its agricultural production, a substantial proportion of which is GM.
Global resistance to GM products could therefore throw US agriculture into
an even deeper crisis - hence the aggressive approach of the US government
on the issue of global trade in GM products.


Sunday Independent (London) Feb 28, 1999

Third World rejects GM

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent

The world's hungriest nations have resolved to oppose genetically modified
foods. A senior Ethiopian government official last night told the
Independent on Sunday they were "absolutely united" in resisting US plans
to "decide what we eat".

Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher was speaking after last week's talks collapsed
in Cartagena, Colombia, following the United States' accusation that the
developing countries were endangering free trade. An international treaty
to regulate trade in GM produce had been discussed by 132 nations.

The revolt will strike a chord in the West, with many associating the 1980
Ethiopia famines - which sparked Live Aid - with severe food shortages.
Some biotechnology firms have consistently argued that GM crops' increased
resistance to parasites and disease makes them suitable for the Third

Dr Egziabher, the senior Third World negotiator at the talks, said Third
World resistance to the imposition of GM crops was increasing. Last week
the government of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, the country's second
largest soya-producing region, said it would ban the planting of GM beans
produced by the US giant, Monsanto. And India's Supreme Court stopped
trials of GM cotton.

The Third World's tough stance undermines the biotech companies'
justification for GM crops - that they will help end world hunger; Dr
Egziabher said that instead they could worsen the plight of the hungry.

The developing countries insisted the US and other food exporters ship GM
foods separately from normal ones, and seek their "prior informed consent"
before exporting. But the US and five other exporting countries -
including Canada, Australia and Argentina - fear Third World countries
would boycott GM produce.


(Thanks to Norfolk Genetic Information Network for this)

India's supreme court stops GM trials

On February 23rd 1999 India's highest court banned field trials of GM cotton
"in the interim before a final ruling". The petition to the court was filed
by Dr Vandana Shiva and others. The GM cotton in question has been altered
by Monsanto to incorporate the bacterium bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), an
insecticide. The Petitioners are also seeking a moratorium on trials of the
genetically engineered cotton for three to five years unless biosafety
regulations are in place and until the ecological risk assessment has been
carried out on a scientifically sound basis. Dr. Shiva is a well known
environmental campaigner whose  particular focus is biodiversity, the
variety of earth's plant and animal life. She is especially concerned about
international agreements allowing organizations to patent and have exclusive
access to plants, seeds, and other natural resources not previously
considered property. This has been termed biopiracy.