ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

2 October 2001


1. GM food companies undermine food security
2. India Together: articles on agriculture


1. GM food companies undermine food security

The Mail & Guardian
September 27, 2001

South Africa:  For many farmers in SADC and other developing countries, global agriculture and trade forums are mere talk shops used to rubberstamp preconceived policies that seek to widen markets for big farming corporations from rich nations

The recent "Sustainable Food Security for All by 2020" conference, held in Bonn, Germany, further strengthened the belief in developing countries that Northern countries, represented by transnational corporations (TNCs), are not totally committed to attaining global food security but rather, more interested in increasing their profits.

The conference, attended by a total of about 600 delegates from all over the world including agricultural ministers from South Africa and Uganda, had about 17% of its participants coming from sub-Saharan Africa. Participants were also drawn from civil society, NGOs, churches, government officials and media. The issue of seed availability to the small-holder farmers around the world was revisted.

Participants agreed that the food security situation in most developing countries is worsened also by the arrival of multinational seed companies armed with patenting rights on genetically-modified seeds that cannot be reused. This technology compels the small-holder farmer to buy seed every season and spray particular types of chemicals. The shift from the traditional practice of farming to new methods have left the farmers in developing countries vulnerable. It has also worsened the food insecurity situation of most developing countries that are then forced to import food. According to a study by the Belgium-based International Co-operation for Development and Solidarity, the introduction of new technologies, especially where they focus on cash crops, leads to food insecurity since in most developing countries, women, who are the backbone of agriculture, do not have property rights.

Another  report prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and presented at the conference, rapid pro-poor economic growth together with effective provision of public goods will be the backbone of any successful attempt to achieve sustainable food security for all. The report entitled Sustainable Food Security For All by 2020, states that "policies and institutions should be designed and implemented to guide economic growth and public goods creation for the benefit of low-income people".

Five years ago, the World Food Summit set a target of reducing the total number of undernourished people by half no later than the year 2015. But, as Poul Nielson, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, put it, "we are not on a path to reach that target. It is time to take a critical look at our policies and actions". Stating the EU's position, Nielson said that the best way to achieve food security for all was to implement a broad-based policy for sustainable growth and poverty reduction. He stressed that economic growth is a necessary condition for food security because it contributes to increased food production and a strengthened external trade position, which allows countries to import food if necessary. He pointed out that since growth is not a sufficient condition for food security, it is essential to strengthen people's access to food by tackling poverty.

In a speech that many from the developing countries hoped was not just rhetoric, Nielson said: "We cannot expect growth to deliver poverty reduction when there are large inequalities in human capital, employment, access to land and other productive assets. "We need to confront these inequalities by addressing issues of land tenure and land reform, generating employment, providing universal access to health and education services, making rural credit more available to those lacking collateral, and tackling policy biases that disadvantage the rural poor."

Participants from developing countries criticized the conference for repeating old rhetoric and questioned its aims. Many felt that the conference lacked substance since it had no power to influence decisions and policies of government. In fact, Ranjul Pandya-Lorch, who spoke on behalf of the organizers, took the steam out of many participants when she indicated on the first day of the three-day conference that it was "just to educate and inform each other, not to hammer out resolutions into the night."

Given that both developed and developing countries committed themselves to a set of WTO agreements, most of which are skewed in favour of the former, the need to review such agreements becomes a central issue if Nielson's comments are to bear weight. In an electronic vote conducted in one of the sessions, 85% of the participants concurred that food security for all by 2020 will not be achieved. A majority of about 38 percent of the participants said that food insecure people in the world will decrease by less than 20 percent over the next 20 years. Participants reiterated the need to protect the small-holder farmers in any of the next round of WTO negotiations and at the coming world food summit among other future negotiations. Emphasis was also placed on maintaining pressure on developed countries to commit themselves to a strict greenhouse gas emissions reduction programme than presently reflected under the recent Kyoto and the Bonn negotiations. While developed countries have publicly declared that they are committed to global food security, they have a moral obligation to allow an equal distribution of wealth to uplift the standards of living in the developing countries as a major step towards attaining that goal.


India Together articles

All that glitters is not gold
A tale of genetic engineering in India

Its the policy, stupid, not implementation
P. Sainath on the hunger related deaths in Kashipur.

Who really owns seed?
Seed diversity is threatened by biotech industry

Agricultural statistics
Areas, yield, and cultivation

Bt Cotton shelved
The government's order unspins the yarn.


15,000 People Gather in San Francisco to Protest US Presence in Afghanistan

If a nation is centered in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.

Tao Te Ching
(551-479 BCE)

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