ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

7 October 2002


Environmental concerns, including the GM issue, have featured noticeably during recent elections in New Zealand, Germany and now Brazil (item 2). And the Brazilian election could mark the end of one of Monsanto's fondest dreams - of opening up Brazil's huge agricultural market to its GM products while simultaneously removing a major global source of non-GM grain.

If persistent reports of a campaign to undermine Brazil's GM-free status via cheap smuggled GM seed brought in from Argentina are correct, doubtless we can look forward to an intensification of covert operations.

Meanwhile, Jim Goodman accuses US's corporate ag groups of GM spin over GM crops with a report which managed to report yields before the combines had even begun the harvest! (item 4).

1. Bush using famine in Africa as GM marketing tool
2. Lula government would favor GM-free Brazil
3. EU to provide southern Africa with funds to abate famine
4. Follow the trail of money for incentive for GM farming lies


1. Bush using famine in Africa as GM marketing tool

Last edited: 2002-10-07

Research published today by Greenpeace exposes the Bush Administration's use of the famine in southern Africa as a marketing tool to push GM food in the continent. The document details how the offer of GM food aid by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the latest move in a ten-year marketing campaign designed to facilitate the introduction of US-developed GM crops into Africa. In addition, the US food aid programme effectively channels a huge covert subsidy to American GM farmers through the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

The UK government's Chief Scientist David King has described the USAID programme as "amoral" and "a massive human experiment."

African governments, including Zambia have refused genetically modified food aid from the US, asking instead for non-GM food. USAID Director Andrew Natsios has claimed that environmental and human health objections to GM  food aid in Africa represent "an ideological campaign."

But the Greenpeace research reveals that:

There are plentiful sources of non-GM maize that can be used for food aid. The USA has made a clear political decision to only provide GM contaminated aid.

Aid agencies, the EU and UK Government all believe that best practice for supplying food aid is to provide financial assistance and to source locally - the only organisation that thinks otherwise is USAID. The American Corn Growers Association state that over half of all US first stage grain handling facilities segregate GM and non-GM grains, meaning USAID could easily buy aid from American farmers that is acceptable to Africans.

The USAID effort to introduce GM into Africa is the latest ploy in a ten-year marketing push led by the agency. USAID recently set up CABIO - a biotech initiative designed to market GM in the developing world. Previously USAID set up the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Group, which pushed African governments to introduce intellectual property legislation, clearing the way for US biotech corporations to operate in Africa.

USAID and biotechnology companies such as Monsanto have close funding relationships for GM research projects in Africa.

USAID funds the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications - a pro-GM advocacy organisation that pushes biotech in the  developing world. The ISAAA's other sponsors include Monsanto, Syngenta,  Pioneer Hi-Bred, Cargill and Bayer CropScience.

Donald Mavunduse of ActionAid, one of the UK's leading development agencies working in southern Africa, states that, "The WFP has been hamstrung by aid conditions imposed by the US Government. But if you look at the bigger picture there is enough non-GM maize on the world market. We have not yet got to the point where we should be saying to starving countries 'take GM or nothing'."

Greenpeace Executive Director Stephen Tindale said, "This debate shouldn't be focused on the false choice of eating GM or starving. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-GM grain are available, both in America and elsewhere, and it should be sent to where it's needed most. Instead the Bush Administration is exploiting famine in Africa in an effort to support the American biotech industry. This is the just latest twist in a long and cynical marketing campaign."

While the Bush Administration and USAID claim the offer of food aid to Africa is motivated by altruism, the USAID website is a little more candid. It states: "The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans."

Notes for editors:

Research by ActionAid indicates that there is a total of 1,160,000 metric tonnes of maize available in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa (Food supply situation and crop prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa (No.2). FAO Global Information and Early Warning System on food and agriculture, August 2002.)

Table: Non- GM Maize Sources

Country Exportable maize (Mt)
Kenya 10,000
Tanzania 50,000
South Africa 1,020,000
Uganda 80,000

Total available in Africa 1,160,000

The full briefing USAID and GM food aid can be downloaded as a pdf.

Further information:
Greenpeace press office on 020 7865 8255


2. Lula government would favor GM-free Brazil

By Reese Ewing SAO PAULO, Brazil
Reuters, 03 Oct 2002

(Reuters) - Should leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva win Brazil's presidential election this month, biotech companies such as Monsanto Co. can expect his government to uphold the country's ban on genetically modified food crops. "We want to establish a reputation as GM-free," said Lula's agricultural policy advisor, Jose Graziano da Silva. "We get premium prices on specialty markets that our competitors -- the U.S. and Argentina -- don't because they plant GM."

 Selling Brazil as GM-free is part of Lula's broader agricultural policy that expects to boost trade revenue from farm goods by exploring value added and niche markets abroad. Lula of the left-wing Workers' Party (PT) is far ahead of other candidates in the polls just three days before the first round of voting this Sunday. Although the PT has distanced itself recently from militant small farmer and rural landless workers, they are still a rural pillar of its political base and strongly oppose GM crops as deleterious to small farms. In this agricultural Goliath of Brazil, the potential market for gene-altered crops -- such as soy designed to survive a strong glyphosate weed killer or corn that secretes a natural bug repellent -- has the biotech sector salivating. However, Monsanto and the current government have failed over the last four years to end Brazil's ban on GM sales. Consumer and environmental watchdogs have succeeded in using local courts to block any commercial use of the crops, despite most farmers' preference for the cost-saving technology.

 Environmentalists Greenpeace, for example, oppose the use of current GM technologies because they feel they are a potential threat to the environment and human health.

 Biotech research may resume with the government crop research arm (Embrapa), said Graziano da Silva, "but until it is sufficiently proven that it is safe for humans and the environment, the ban on commercial use will be enforced."

 Silva is senior professor in agricultural economics at Unicamp university and an author of the PT's agricultural policy. "We will enforce the ban, unlike the current government which has turned a blind eye to the problem," said Silva.


3. EU to provide southern Africa with funds to abate famine


LUSAKA,Oct. 6 (Xinhua) --The European Union (EU) is to provide southern Africa with humanitarian aid to the tune of 30 million euro (29.57 million US dollars), to mitigate the severe food crisis currently being experienced in the region. In a statement available here Sunday, the EU acknowledged the plight of six southern African countries, including Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe that are facing unprecedented famine exacerbated by HIV/AIDS. A joint report, issued by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has said some 13 million people in the region need at least 1.2 million tons of cereals, while another report by the United Nations has described the humanitarian situation of some 800,000 displaced people in the region as desperate. Famine directly threatens some 6 million people in Zimbabwe alone, including 500,000 workers formerly employed by white farmers who have since been evicted from their property in the country's land distribution scheme. The EU grant would be used to supply vulnerable populations emergency food aid, provide health care for children below five, as well as water and sanitation in needy areas. Equally envisaged is the rehabilitation of agricultural projects in affected countries. Humanitarian organizations operating in the region would manage the funding, which has been spread over a period of 12 months. About 2.4 million people in Zambia face starvation and need emergency food supply until March next year, after the government rejected the genetically modified (GM) maize offered by the US government as relief food.


4. Follow the trail of money for incentive for GM farming lies

From: Jim & Rebecca Goodman <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 10:14 PM
Subject: letter to the editor

The FWI article of September 16, 2002 GM crops "boost" agriculture, briefly describes a report on GM crops that was endorsed by nine US agriculture groups. One must first of all understand that these groups are industry groups, not local farm organizations. They represent the interests of the largest segments of corporate farming in the US. These organizations are partially funded by government mandated checkoffs that come directly off farmers yearly sales. (Most of these checkoffs have been challenged by farmers as unconstitutional). Additional funding for these groups comes directly from agribusiness concerns, for example, in 2001 The National Corn Growers received 11% of their budget from Monsanto, Syngenta and other bio-tech companies. The American Soybean Growers received 10% of their budget form the same companies. These facts are telling; first the more commodities, maize, Soya, cotton etc. that are grown in the US, the more checkoff money available to these groups (while farm incomes continue to drop); second, don't bite the hand that feeds you. These groups do have an agenda and a strong financial reason to support GM.

As to the claims of environmental protection, ploughing the land or not, planting millions of acres in a maize Soya rotation is causing soil erosion at a far higher rate than that seen in a typical hay, pasture, maize and cereal grain rotation that was common in most areas of the US prior to industrial farming. Kimball Nill states that the Midwestern US was gripped by the worst drought in three decades, that is certainly true, but as this report was released in mid September,  prior to the start of the Soya  harvest, I am curious how yield figures  were determined when combines had yet to make the harvest? GM Soya fared no better in the drought than conventional Soya, and that is a fact based on yields, or lack thereof, in southern parts of the Midwest. To imply that GM Soya is drought resistant is simply a lie.

I did notice a mention of reduced use of herbicides on GM crops, it might be wise to omit that claim. I watched my neighbors spray their RR Soya two, three or four times. Now that the leaves are falling off I can see why, plenty of weeds amongst the beans. Many Soya fields have good healthy maize plants growing there as well, obviously Roundup tolerant, although no RR maize was ever plantd in those fields. An article in the Oct. 2002 Progressive Farmer magazine stresses that reliance on one herbicide is a recipe for disaster in conventional or GM, I agree.

One statement made by Mr. Nill really must be turned back towards the US farm groups that endorsed this report, and the fantasy it contains; "Their random statements are ludicrous, untrue and deliberately misleading". That pretty well sums up the report (which I have seen in a much expanded version in the US farm press). Follow the trail of money and you will find the incentive for the lies.

Jim Goodman
Dairy Farmer
Northwood Farm
Wonewoc Wisconsin USA

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