ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

6 June 2002


1. Environmentalists Accuse World Food Program and USAID of Distributing Genetically-Modified Foods - 2 parts
2. U.S. Exports Misery to Africa With Farm Bill
3. Mexican corn contamination, sign ons needed


Environmentalists Accuse World Food Program and USAID of Distributing Genetically-Modified Foods

SOURCE: NicaNet,
DATE:   May 27, 2002

The Alliance for a Transgenic-Free Nicaragua accused both the World Food Program and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) of using genetically-manipulated foods and seeds in their emergency relief programs in Nicaragua. The Alliance, a grouping of eight leading Nicaraguan environmental and other organizations which has the backing of powerful international environmental activist groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (Europe), based its accusations on tests carried out on samples taken from seed and food aid distributed in the Departments of Leon and Nueva Segovia. Going even further, the Alliance accused USAID in particular of actually experimenting with genetically-modified crops in some remote communities. Amado Ordonez, Director of the prestigious Humboldt Center and chairperson of the Alliance, said that not only had food aid samples been tested in Nicaragua, but the disturbing discovery of the presence of certain "rogue" proteins had been confirmed by specialist laboratories in the United States itself.

A US Embassy spokesperson said emphatically, "We are not using genetically-altered seeds. Neither USAID nor any other agency is promoting or financing the distribution of such seeds within Nicaragua." Representatives of the

World Food Program also issued "denials" which on close reading did not deny anything: "WFP's first priority in every one of the eight-two countries where it works is, first and foremost, the health of the local population. We never distribute foods which are not fit for human consumption or which might damage people's health in any way. Everything we handle must have the required certifications which govern the international food trade. All our foodstuffs have met requirements which guarantee that they are free of disease."

Ordonez said that the Alliance for a Transgenic-Free Nicaragua had already presented its findings before the government Advocate for Human Rights and various committees of the National Assembly and is making formal denunciations against the World Food Program and USAID. He concluded by announcing that the Alliance was to meet with representatives of the United Nations during this coming week to lay the whole matter before U.N. officials.


SOURCE: Alliance for a Nicaragua Free of Genetically Modified Organisms Press Release
posted at
DATE:   June 3, 2002



Nicaraguan Representatives Denounce Food Aid Contamination by Genetically Engineered Crops Not Approved in Their Country

Representatives of the Alliance for a Nicaragua Free of Genetically Modified Organisms are visiting Washington this week to denounce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) they discovered through DNA testing of food aid to Nicaragua from the World Food Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.A.I.D.).

Victor Campos from the Humboldt Center, a leading Nicaraguan environmental group (and a Friends of the Earth International affiliate), and Ana Quiroz from Nicaragua's Center for Health Information and Advisory Service, oppose sending food to Nicaragua that people in other parts of the world avoid.

According to Campos, "It is unacceptable that the children of Nicaragua are consuming genetically modified products that come masked as food aid for our country. It is well known that baby food companies in the U.S. and Europe do not use genetically modified products. Nevertheless, our highly-vulnerable condition has been used as an opportunity to send products that children in developed countries do not consume."

The Alliance notes the growing worldwide opposition to genetically modified crops because of fears about their environmental and health impacts; the potential for contamination, as in Mexico, of local farmers' crops by GMO contaminated seed; and the contradiction of World Food Programme statements that their shipments do not contain GMOs.

Quiroz and Campos are taking their opposition to genetically modified organisms in food aid to members of congress, to U.S.A.I.D., and to U.S. environmental and hunger relief groups. Their schedule includes a briefing at 11:00 on Tuesday, June 4th at Friends of the Earth, 1025 Vermont Ave., NW, 3rd floor. Test results for four contaminated seed and flour samples will be available.

For a phone or face-to-face interview with Campos and Quiroz, please call +1 202-271-4914. Interviews available in Spanish and English.

Contact: Charles Warpehoski
+1 202-544-9355, +1 202-271-4914

TITLE: U.S. Exports Misery to Africa With Farm Bill
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, USA, by Warren Vieth
DATE: May 27, 2002


U.S. Exports Misery to Africa With Farm Bill

WASHINGTON -- The White House and Congress are trumpeting their determination to bring economic opportunity to the people of Africa. But first, a few million sub-Saharan farmers will have to suffer. The Bush administration has been busy extending special trade status to African exporters, designing a $10-billion aid package for poor countries and dispatching Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and other top officials to confer with African leaders. There has even been talk of a "Marshall Plan" for Africa.

But all of those initiatives added together may not be enough to offset the damage inflicted on Africa's small farmers by the $190-billion agriculture bill that President Bush just signed into law. "This farm bill, I think it's fair to say, will put millions of small farmers out of business in Africa," said Mark Ritchie, president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. "They will have to move to cities and become part of unemployed labor pools." Government officials and independent economists say the big subsidies doled out to U.S. farmers will contribute to global overproduction of wheat, corn, cotton and other basic crops. That, in turn, will drive down world commodity prices, making it more difficult for small, unsubsidized Third World farmers to compete.

African nations will be particularly hard hit because agriculture plays such a big role in their economies--accounting for more than 50% of the gross domestic products in some. "Commodity prices will probably sink lower on a global basis. For countries that do not subsidize their farmers as well as we do, that will mean economic and financial trauma," said Neil Harl, director of the Center for International Agricultural Finance at Iowa State University. "We're making decisions here in the U.S. that affect the entire world, yet the rest of the world doesn't have much say in what our policy is."

Indeed, O'Neill has been pummeled with complaints about the farm bill since his arrival in Africa on a 10-day fact-finding tour with Bono, the Irish rock star and global debt relief advocate. A government official in Ghana told O'Neill the U.S. subsidies will undermine the economies of many African nations. In South Africa, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said the bill will jeopardize the continent's efforts to overcome poverty. Even Bono chimed in. "We can't have people in Congress who agree with debt cancellation and want to do something on AIDS, and then sponsor the farm bill," he said, according to a report in Friday's Financial Times. Some analysts fear the farm bill will sabotage the sweeping world trade negotiations launched in November in Doha, Qatar. The U.S. persuaded many poor countries to support the trade talks by promising that wealthy nations would reduce their agricultural subsidies. Indeed, lavish farm subsidies employed by other industrialized nations, notably France and Japan, long have been a target of criticism by U.S. trade negotiators as inimical to the cause of free trade.

Bill Undermines U.S. Message on Values

Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank, said the farm bill belies the "Horatio Alger" ethic that the U.S. encourages poor countries to embrace. "We're undermining our message about what our values are and what has worked in our country to bring about healthy development," Birdsall said. "We're creating another round of frustration." The agriculture bill Bush signed recently authorizes about $190billion in farm spending over 10 years--$83 billion more than lawmakers anticipated when they passed 1996's big farm bill.

The money will finance a variety of farm programs, from agricultural research to conservation programs. But much of it, an estimated $57 billion, will be paid directly to farmers to make up for low commodity prices. The biggest subsidies are earmarked for producers of wheat, corn, sorghum, barley, oats, rice and cotton.

According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which monitors fiscal policies in industrialized countries, farm subsidies already are distorting the economics of agriculture in the United States. Of every $1 in U.S. farm revenue, about 25 cents comes from the government, according to OECD analysts. In 2000, government support averaged $20,800 per farmer. In most cases, the subsidies are pegged to commodity prices. The less money a farmer gets for his crop in the market, the bigger the subsidy he gets from the government. No matter how far the market price falls, the farmer has no incentive to reduce production. Saturated markets become even more glutted with surplus production, and prices fall even further. "It's a Catch-22," said Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former top government official who now co-chairs the European-American Business Council. "Because the bill is counter-cyclical, as prices decline you get more subsidies to try to make up for it, and you just keep the vicious circle going."

Effect Is Greatest in High-Production Areas

The effect is greatest in the markets for grains, soybeans and cotton, where world production tends to exceed demand year after year. Some of those crops are among the major agricultural products of sub-Saharan Africa--where farm production accounts for an average of 17% of the total economic activity in 48 nations--and the effect of low prices on the continent's small farmers can be devastating. Eizenstat said he expects the farm bill's negative impact on the developing world will eclipse the potential benefits of Bush's proposed Millennium Challenge Account, which would provide poor countries with $10 billion in additional development aid over three years. Oxfam, the London-based relief organization, noted in a recent analysis that the United States has been selling surplus wheat on world markets at prices 46% below the cost of production, and corn at 20% below costs. In most other export products, selling below cost is a violation of anti-dumping rules. But farm products never have been subject to those restrictions. "For practical purposes, the world agricultural market is a dumping market in which prices are unrelated to costs of production," Oxfam said in its report. According to World Bank economists, cotton exporters in West and Central

Africa would take in an additional $250 million a year if the U.S. stopped subsidizing domestic production. Overproduction has caused cotton prices to fall to about a third of their peak levels in the mid-1990s. The $2 billion in subsidies received by U.S. cotton farmers every year is partly to blame, the World Bank says. Americans are hardly alone in this practice, however:
Other rich countries pay their cotton farmers more than $3 billion a year. Analysts at the International Monetary Fund reached a similar conclusion, noting that this year's U.S. cotton crop is expected to be the biggest since 1927. Farmers keep increasing production even though market prices have fallen sharply in recent years. "This has contributed significantly to downward pressure on prices, hurting some of the world's poorest countries," IMF economists said in a recent analysis. The resulting loss of cotton exports amounts to 3% of the total economic output of Mali and Benin, the IMF said, and 1% to 2% for Burkina Faso and Chad. The damage exceeds the total value of the relief provided to those countries under a global debt relief initiative financed by wealthy nations and administered by the World Bank.

Analyst Fears for Talks on Trade Reforms

John Weekes, who heads the Global Trade Practice of APCO Worldwide, a Geneva-based consulting firm, said he fears the farm bill may convince other countries that the United States is not serious about trade reform, dooming the recently launched round of trade talks. "It's a dangerous game," said Weekes, a former Canadian government trade official. "It will have a severe impact on other countries' trading prospects, and also on the temperament and mood of [trade] negotiations." Even if the United States ultimately agrees to scale back its agricultural support as part of a new global trade accord, U.S. farmers will have become "hooked on subsidies," Weekes said. "It may be harder to wean them off at the end of the negotiating process."

Birdsall, the Washington think tank official, said the psychological blow dealt by the farm bill may be even bigger than the actual economic effect. "It's as though you have crippled economies, and you're trying to get them back on their feet so they can enter the race," she said. "And then, just before the race begins, you whack them back from the starting line."


Mexican corn contamination, sign ons needed


A coalition of groups in Mexico, including the Coletivo Ecologista Jalisco (a PANNA affiliate) and Mexico Greenpeace, have put together a petition to the Council on Environmental Cooperation (a NAFTA agency) to investigate the contamination of native Mexican corn by transgenic corn. They are groups to sign on in support.

For further information on the Mexican corn contamination scandal and to see a copy of the petition, go to:

While the tentative closing date to sign the letter is Friday June 7, please continue to send late endorsements after that date.

To sign on, please send your name, title/degree,/organization and country to Holly Penfound, Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Canada.


Ellen Hickey
Genetic Engineering campaigner
Pesticide Action Network North America.
Commission for Environmental Cooperation
Janine Ferreti
Executive Director
Rue St. Jacques Ouest
Bureau 200
Montréal, Québec
Canada, H2Y 1N9

Statement in support of the Request of Report corresponding to Article 13 of North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) on genetically engineered (GE) corn pollution in Oaxaca, México.

On April 24, 2002, indigenous communities from Oaxaca, México, along with three non-governmental organizations (Greenpeace, the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights, and the Union of Mexican Environmental Groups), presented a request to the NAFTA Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) to prepare a report on the consequences of contamination of native Mexican varieties of corn (maize) with transgenic sequences.  The communities filed this request under Article 13 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, the NAFTA environmental side agreement.

We, the undersigned, support this request that has been submitted to the CEC.  We, too, are concerned about the long-term implications this genetic contamination has for human health and the environment. Because México is a center of origin for corn diversity, and because traditional corn varieties are the repository of invaluable genetic diversity upon which we all depend, it is of the utmost importance that the global community takes steps to address the contamination immediately.

The CEC has an important role to play here.  In the process of writing the report, the CEC will undoubtedly be able to increase the understanding among the three member states of the important role that crop genetic diversity plays in the lives of all who eat food. It will also be able to raise awareness among regulators of the significant environmental impacts that genetically engineered organisms may have on the huge variety of ecosystems that are found in a megadiverse country like México.  And the process will help to call attention to the essential role that indigenous communities play in the conservation of biological diversity, and will address the particular concerns that the Oaxacan communities have expressed about this transgenic contamination.

We, the undersigned organizations, support the request of the petitioners to the CEC to carry out the following tasks:

1.      Carry out an assessment of the possible environmental impacts on maize biodiversity and ecosystems of Oaxacan communities that might arise from contamination by release of genetically engineered maize.

2.      Carry out an analysis of the direct and indirect effects of gene flow from engineered maize on the genetic diversity of maize that exists in the affected communities in Oaxaca.

3.      Carry out an assessment of the environmental impacts caused by the transgenic maize on ecosystem biodiversity where the contamination is found.

4.      Determine the sources of contamination of native varieties of maize by genetically engineered varieties.

5.      Analyze the risks of propagating the contamination of native maize varieties by the unintentional release of genetically engineered maize seeds.

6.      Issue recommendations to the Mexican government to address the harm caused to native maize varieties by the release of genetically engineered maize.



ngin bulletin archive