9 December 2001
HYPE, HOPE AND BETRAYING THE HUNGRY
Ann Veneman once served on the board of directors of biotech firm, Calgene Inc. These days she's Secretary of Agriculture:
"Continued development of agricultural biotechnology offers hope for feeding a growing global population and finding solutions to malnutrition and poverty, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman said at the United Nations Food Conference in Rome."
"Veneman's comments constituted a note of optimism in the conference"
"the world's richest industrialized nations have reduced their aid to
developing nations from an average of .33 percent of Gross Domestic Product
in 1992 to only .24 percent in 1999 -- far below the .7 percent the richer
nations committed to providing in 1970."
- from item below: 'Biotech May Offset Failures in War on Hunger'
"...the cutting-edge technology, as biotechnology is fondly called, provides them with a perfect tool to distract the decision-makers from the more pressing problems of alleviating hunger and poverty."
"Biotechnology is a cosmetic tool which will ...ultimately subject more
people to hunger and starvation."
- Devinder Sharma, 'BIOTECHNOLOGY: NOT THE ANSWER TO HUNGER'
Biotech May Offset Failures in War on Hunger
- Southwest Farm Press via NewsEdge Corporation, Intertec Publishing
Corp., A Primedia Co. December 5, 2001
Continued development of agricultural biotechnology offers hope for feeding a growing global population and finding solutions to malnutrition and poverty, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman said at the United Nations Food Conference in Rome. "Working together, we can break the crushing cycle of poverty and win the war on hunger," she told delegates from 182 nations participating in the biennial conference.
Veneman's comments constituted a note of optimism in the conference where two officials said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's programs to reduce hunger in the world have failed. Its own statistics indicate that at the present rate of 6 million people per year rescued from malnourishment, it will take more than 60 years to reach the World Food Summit goal of a 22 million per year reduction.
Patricio Aylwin, president of Chile, in the conference's inaugural address, bluntly labeled the FAO efforts "a tragic failure," noting that "only poverty has been truly globalized in our age." FAO Director General Jacques Diouf said "the tragedy of hunger in a world of abundance and waste continues to be a troubling reality." He cited statistics that 815 million people in the world do not have access to sufficient food.
Despite the need, Aylwin pointed out, the world's richest industrialized nations have reduced their aid to developing nations from an average of .33 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1992 to only .24 percent in 1999 -- far below the .7 percent the richer nations committed to providing in 1970.
Veneman said the U.S. is "committed to the goal of ending world poverty and hunger and will walk alongside any country prepared to travel the same path." New technologies, including biotechnology, "will help meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population from a limited resource base," she said, citing several examples, including the use of drought-resistant crop varieties in Africa, genetically enhanced cotton in South Africa, and Vitamin A-enhanced rice that could significantly reduce blindness in many countries.
"Biotechnology will also help produce vaccines against many diseases, including cholera, that could be administered through dietary staples such as rice and bananas," Veneman said. As with the war on terrorism, she noted, success in the war to eliminate world poverty and hunger "will require an international coalition, united for collective action." The secretary praised the work of the FAO in playing a critical role in trade liberalization, which she said "must be a key component of food security to assure all countries of equal access to world food supplies."
From Rome, Veneman went to Qatar as part of a U.S. delegation to begin negotiations for the next round of the World Trade Organization negotiations. "International trade is critical to U.S. farmers and ranchers," she said. "We're optimistic that these meetings will set the stage for further reductions of tariffs (now averaging 60 percent) on our agricultural products and a stronger science-based dispute settlement process."
The Bush administration, Veneman said, has made agriculture "a top priority" for the new round of international trade talks. "For too long, agriculture has been left outside the trading rules. Over the past 50 years, tariffs on U.S. agricultural products have barely budged downward, while tariffs on manufactured goods have fallen some 90 percent."
"There are 800 million hungry people in the world; 34,000 children starve
to death every day. There are those who consider this a tragedy, and then
there are the biotech companies and their countless PR firms, who seem
to consider it a flawless hook for product branding. It is an insult of
the highest and most grotesque order to turn those who live from day to
day into the centerpiece of an elaborate lie. ...the companies who
make [GE foods], and the flacks who hawk their falsehoods, offer us a new
definition of depravity, a new standard to plunge for in our race to care
least, want more, and divest ourselves of all shame."
- Michael Manville - Welcome to the Spin Machine
"What I saw generically on the pro-biotech side was the attitude that
the technology was good and that it was almost immoral to say that it wasn't
good because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed
the hungry and clothe the naked. And there was a lot of money that had
been invested in this, and if you're against it, you're Luddites, you're
stupid. There was rhetoric like that even here in this department. You
felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded
view on some of the issues being raised. So I pretty much spouted the rhetoric
that everybody else around here spouted; it was written into my speeches."
- Dan Glickman, quoted in "OUTGOING SECRETARY SAYS AGENCY'S TOP ISSUE IS
GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 25, 2001
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