Tuesday, February 23, 2016
(Rome, Monday 15 February, 2016) Just when the biotech companies that make transgenic seeds are merging, the corporate vision of biotechnology is showing up at FAO. At today’s opening of the three-day International symposium on agricultural biotechnologies convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, more than 100 civil society and social movement and organizations (CSOs) from four continents have issued a statement denouncing both the substance and structure of the meeting, which appears to be another attempt by multinational agribusiness to redirect the policies of the UN agency toward support for Genetically-engineered crops and livestock.
The global peasant and family farm movement, La Via Campesina, invited CSOs to sign the letter when the symposium’s agenda became public. Two of the FAO keynote speakers are known proponents of GMOs, and the agenda and side events over the three days include speakers from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (a biotech trade group in the USA), Crop Life International (the global agrochemical trade association), DuPont (one of the world’s largest biotech seed companies) and CEVA (a major veterinary medicine corporation), among others. FAO has only invited one speaker or panellist openly critical of GMOs. Worse, one of the two speakers at the opening session is a former assistant director general of FAO who has pushed for so-called Terminator seeds (GMO seeds programmed to die at harvest time forcing farmers to purchase new seeds every growing season), in opposition to FAO’s own public statements. The second keynoter’s speech is titled, "Toward Ending the Misplaced Global Debate on Biotechnology" – suggesting that the FAO symposium should be the moment for shutting down biotech criticism.
In convening the biased symposium, FAO is bowing to industry pressure that intensified following international meetings on agroecology hosted by FAO in 2014 and 2015. The agroecology meetings were a model of openness to all viewpoints, from peasants to industry. But the biotech industry apparently prefers now to have a meeting they can control. This is not the first time FAO has been drawn into this game. In 2010, FAO convened a biotechnology conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, that blocked farmers from its organizing committee, and then tried to prevent their attendance at the conference itself.
"We are alarmed that FAO is once again fronting for the same corporations, just when these companies are talking about further mergers amongst themselves, which would concentrate the commercial seeds sector in even fewer hands" the CSO statement denounces.
It is clear, according to the Civil Society Statement, that industry wants to use FAO to re-launch their false message that genetically engineered crops can feed the world and cool the planet, while the reality is that nothing has changed on the biotech front. GMOs don't feed people, they are mostly planted in a handful of countries on industrial plantations for agrofuels and animal feed, they increase pesticide use, and they throw farmers off the land. Transnational biotech companies are trying to patent the planet's bodiversity, which shows that their main interest is to make enormous profits, and not to guarantee food security or food sovereignty. The industrial food system that these companies promote is also one of the main drivers of climate change. Confronted with the rejection of GMOs by many consumers and producers, the industry is now inventing new and possibly dangerous breeding techniques to genetically modify plants, without calling them GMOs. In doing so, they are trying to avoid current GMO regulations and trick consumers and farmers.
The agroecology activities were much closer to the way that FAO should act, the Statement points out, "as a centre for knowledge exchange, without a hidden agenda on behalf of a few." Why does FAO now limit itself again to corporate biotechnology and deny the existence of peasant technologies? FAO should support the peasant technologies, that offer the most innovative, open source, and the effective pathway to ending hunger and malnutrition. It is time to stop pushing a narrow corporate agenda, says Civil Society. "The vast majority of the world's farmers are peasants, and it is peasants who feed the world. We need peasant-based technologies, not corporate biotechnologies."
"It is high time that FAO puts an end to biopiracy and to its support for genetically modified crops, which only serve to allow a handful of transnational companies to patent and to grab all the existing biodiversity," said La Via Campesina leader Guy Kastler. "On the contrary, FAO should support farmers' organisations and researchers engaged in collaborative plant breeding in the service of food sovereignty and peasant agroecology”.
The statement and the list of signatories can be downloaded here: http://goo.gl/mjaZor
Media contacts in Rome:
Guy Kastler and other Via Campesina leaders
Phone numbers: + 39 329 665 53 44 and +39 331 188 64 35
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Symposium on Agricultural Biotechnologies was held at the FAO headquarters in Rome between 15th and 17th Feb 2016. This particular symposium was conducted in the aftermath of the celebrated success of the Agroecology symposium organized by FAO in 2014. That the agribusiness industry was disconcerted by the euphoria surrounding agroecology and hence strong-arming the FAO to organize a similar event on agricultural biotechnology is no secret. Hence there was a strong undercurrent that the FAO was losing its proclaimed ‘neutral’ position in agriculture.
The conference took off on a note of FAO considering ‘every possible alternative’ to end world hunger and malnutrition, given population growth and climate change. The Director General José Graziano da Silvarepeatedly stressed that agricultural biotechnology was not limited to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) alone. Though this is true, GMOs dominate the global agri-biotech industry, and are extremely controversial, to say the least. Almost every speaker who spoke afterward stressed the same point so much so that even an unbiased delegate became suspicious of the speaker’s ulterior intentions.
The plenary session consisted of the following Keynote addresses:
1. The state of knowledge in biotechnology, by Louise Fresco, President, Executive Board of Wageningen UR, Wageningen, The Netherlands
2. Towards ending the misplaced global debate on biotechnology, by GebisaEjeta, Distinguished Professor, Purdue University, West Lafayette, United States of America
3. Biotechnologies in action in Brazil, by Maurício Lopes, President, EmpresaBrasileira de PesquisaAgropecuária, Brasília, Brazil
4. Breakthroughs in resource productivity, by Gunter Pauli, Founder, Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives Network, Japan
Out of the 4 speakers, 3 were pro biotech (read GMO) and only the last one, Gunter Pauli, spoke about creating systems and processes that used natural synergies and much more productive than agri-biotech. The same pattern was repeated over the entire conference, with civil society getting only one speaker slot out of more than 80 invited speakers. Of course this was expected as FAO intended it to portray the latest advances in agri-biotech. But what was not expected was the blatant advertising that the industry indulged in. From CropLife International to DuPont Pioneer, Borlaug Institute to IFPRI, they were all there to proclaim that the notorious agri-biotech industry is the only solution to end world hunger and help agriculture adapt to climate change. (Climate change is now the latest excuse these entities are giving to continue selling their extremely climate non-resilient technologies.)
As the conference concluded, there was a call to bridge agricultural biotechnology with agroecology. Anybody who knows anything about agriculture knows this is not possible. Agricultural biotech promotes monoculture, industrial farming, sky-rocketing input costs, concentration of seeds in the hands of a few elite companies, widening of the IPR net and resulting in the farmer becoming a mere pawn in this racket. Agroecology on the other hand is based on mixed cropping, low input costs, family owned farms and seeds, and is dedicated to conserving the fertility of the soil, the natural environment and the sovereign rights of the farmer. How can the twain meet? And why is FAO being forced to build this impossible and dangerous bridge?
If a bridge must be built, it is the one between farmers of different countries, suffering corporate and many times their Governments’ biased policies. Small farmers practicing Agro-ecology is the best bet we have to feed and cool the planet.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Here is the text of S.Kannaiyan who spoke on behalf of La via Campesina and civil society mechanism in defense of Right to Food and Public stock holding program of India in the CFS plenary in FAO on 14th October, 2014.
Thank you madam chair and I take the floor representing
La Via Campesina which is an active member in the civil society mechanism here.
Civil Society endorses the stance that India has taken here today on the public stock holding issue. We, as civil society believe in the principle of coherence of human rights, which is enshrined in the UDHR. Human Rights are indivisible and inter-dependent.
We cannot have a right to adequate food in practice only by ensuring minimalistic entitlements and by negating the principle of policy coherence.
The complete hypocrisy of the developed countries particularly the US and the EU needs to be throughly exposed. Whilst protecting the interests of their farmers and agri-business, they are using the blatantly unjust WTO rules to arm-twist India and other developing countries.
Public stock holding is vital to the food and nutrition security of any country. It is one of the principal weapons that we have against food price volatility. A guaranteed minimum floor price mechanism can potentially help small and marginal farmers, especially women farmers. Any trade measure that comes in the way of countries assisting the poorest and most marginalised people is unacceptable to us.
We condemn the unfair trade rules that have permitted the developed countries to put most of their subsidies in the Green box, while developing countries are being squeezed to cut their subsidies.
We believe that there should be a full discussion on the public stock holding issue in CFS 42. We believe that the CFS is THE legitimate forum for the discussion on public stock-holding and food security issues and not the WTO.
The principle of coherence of human rights over-rides any trade negotiation or agreement that comes in the way of food security of our constituent groups.
In 2013, the company was taken to court in Kenya for failure to pay its creditors.4 Unpaid workers went on strike, the Karuturi Hospital suffered power cuts, and free schooling for the flower farmworkers' children at Karuturi School came to an end. The community around the farm in Naivasha continues to bear the economic and social costs of the Indian company's troubles.5
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Road No. 2, A – 33, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, IndiaTel: 011 - 26783000, 26784000; Fax: 011-26785001; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 6, 2014
To: Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman,
Minister of State Finance
138, North Block, New Delhi
Dear Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman:
We are a network of farmers’ organizations in India, comprising of farmers movements from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Maharastra.
We appreciate the Government of India’s uncompromised stand in the WTO and commitment to food security. At the WTO General Council the Government of India has postponed the Trade Facilitation Agreement indefinitely until a solution on public stockholding has been found. We appreciate the roles the Government of India and you have played in this position, and we will extend support to the Government of India for any pro-farmer and pro-poor position you have in the WTO. However, our position since the Uruguay Round has always been that there is no place for agriculture in the WTO, and Indian farmers have been the champion of this fight, both at home and internationally.
We agree with you that a permanent solution on the issue of public stockholding for food security is paramount to trade facilitation. Thank you for taking a permanent stand for India against pressure from developed countries such as the USA and protecting the interests of Indian farmers. Protecting farmers means protecting food security at large for Indian citizens. Recognizing and acting upon this is a first step for seeking justice for small farmers in a body such as the WTO.
However, the WTO is a fundamentally flawed institution that bends the economic playing field in favor of developed countries and large MNCs at the cost of the livelihoods of the poor. Since the creation of the WTO, farmers’ organizations of India have held strong that agriculture has no place in the WTO. Especially for a country like India, which has a majority rural population, relinquishing sovereignty of our food system to the interests of foreign corporations and developed countries will have a fatal impact for our population. To truly take the “farmers’ stand” the Government of India must demand an end to agriculture in the WTO altogether.
The WTO has always been the centerpiece of the free trade regime with its multilateral reach and its special ability to legally enforce and penalize countries in order to implement global trade rules. It has been 18 years since the WTO was established. The multiple crises of finance, food, climate, can all be linked to the free trade regime and how it has overexploited the planet, pushing us into this climate crisis, poisoning our food and speculating on prices driving them up beyond people’s reach and letting banks and transnational corporations run unregulated pushing us all into the brink of a global recession.
What we need is not more free trade, but rather, a new system, one that is based on peoples’ sovereignty, economic, climate, social and cultural justice. What we need is a trade that is based on complementarity, solidarity and that has at its heart, the peoples’ interests and not that of corporations. We need an agricultural system that is based on food sovereignty and not based on growing cash crops for the markets.
There are hundreds of alternatives from communities, from social movements, from peasants, workers, women, migrants, fishers, youth and economic justice activists.
One again, thank you for standing strong for farmers at the WTO and holding back on the Trade Facilitation Agreement in the interest of public stockholding. We urge you to continue to work in the same direction until agriculture is out of the WTO altogether.
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BKU Punjab,
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha,Karnataka
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha,Karnataka
Sh Vijay Jawandhia
Shetkari Sanghatna Maharashtra
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha
Kerala Coconut Farmers Association
Chukki Nanjundaswamy, Karnataka Rajya Ryot Sangha, Karnataka
President, Tamila nadu Farmers Association, Tamilanadu
Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi,
Tamil Nadu Farmers Assocation
Thursday, May 29, 2014
S. Kannaiyan, Secretario geral, SICCFM
A escola Nacional Forestan Fernades, criada pelo MST, assim foi nomeada em homenagem ao líder e intelectual homônimo da classe trabalhadora brasileira e da América do Sul. Segundo Paulo, um dos coordenadores de Política nessa instituição, “ Está é uma escola para os membros do movimento. Em São Paulo a escola possui uma estrutura básica necessária, além disso, existem centros regionais em Brasília, no Ceará, Pará, e está prevista a abertura de novas filiais em outras regiões do país. Atualmente, são 30 os centros de formação do MST”.
A decisão pela construção deste centro de formação foi tomada em 1996, mas foram necessários três anos para que a primeira escola fosse inaugurada. Neste período, algumas personalidades muito conhecidas passaram a suportar a causa do movimento. Entre eles, o fotografo brasileiro mundialmente reconhecido, Sebastião Salgado, que doou os direitos de publicação de fotografias das lutas e da vida cotidiana dos Sem Terra como fonte de renda para a construção da escola do MST. Chico Buarque e José Saramago também doaram os direitos do livro realizado em parceria com o fotógrafo como contribuição à coleta de fundos para o projeto.
A escola Florestan Fernandes foi construída graças ao trabalho árduo de voluntários que vieram de todo o Brasil. Arquitetos e engenheiros desenharam e ajudaram na construção do edifício que foi inaugurado em 2005. Atualmente, a escola conta com uma boa biblioteca com livros referentes a assuntos diversos, salas de aula, centros de reuniões, acomodações bem conservadas, cozinha e salão para refeições. Além de uma sala de informática e conexão Wi-Fi em todo o prédio. Todos os dias os estudantes expressam suas ideias inovadoras e ateiam as bandeiras do MST e da Via Campesina no pátio da escola.
Mas o que eles fazem na escola do MST? Neste espaço são ministrados treinamentos político em diferentes áreas. Tais quais:
1) Teoria Política: 4 cursos nacionais que duram, cada um, 40 dias, sendo dois destes cursos destinados ao treinamento dos futuros líderes do MST.
2) Um curso para lideres de movimentos sociais realizado em três etapas, cada uma com a duração de 45 dias.
3)Curso intensivo de leitura sistemática de Karl Marx realizado em 6 etapas, cada uma com duração de uma semana.
4) Curso intensivo similar para leitura do trabalho de Karl Marx e dos escritos de Florestan Fernandes, quem escreveu mais de 60 livros de política clássica.
5) Estudos Latino-americanos. Via Campesina – CLOCK ( Coordenação latino-americana de movimentos sociais) e Via Campesina ALBA – rede de movimentos sociais na América Latina que envia seus estudantes para este curso. Exitem 3 disciplinas oferecidas sob esta cátedra:
I- Formação de instrutores de política. Este curso tem uma duração de 40 dias e, no final, os alunos devem apresentar um programa para seus movimentos. Cerca de 60 estudantes, originários de 16 países, participam dessas aulas.
II - Teoria política latino-americana é o curso de maior duração, são três meses de aula.
III- Especialização em estudos latino-americanos. Este curso é ministrado em parceria com a Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, são 2 anos de aula conduzidos em 5 etapas. Os temas das aulas são variados e inclui filosofia, política, economia, questões agrarias, e teorias organizacionais. Uma fase é ministrada pela escola nacional em São Paulo e as outras na Universidade.
Cursos formais: a escola nacional do MST tem parceria com várias universidades que ministram cursos formais em graduação e pós-graduação. Sete cursos formais são coordenados pela Universidade de Brasília, pela Federal do Rio de Janeiro, pela Universidade de São Paulo (USP) e UNESP, e pela Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC). Cursos de graduação, incluindo arte, drama e poesia nas áreas rurais; pós-graduação em agro-ecologia e educação e saúde também são oferecidos.
Além das aulas, debates, seminários e encontros são realizados para um público variado. Pelo menos 8 seminários são organizados todos os anos sobre diferentes temáticas, como por exemplo estudos latino-americanos. Aos domingos são feitos ciclos de debate abertos ao público, além de encontros sobre temas variados organizados frequentemente pela escola. Em 2012, cerca de 4100 e, em 2013, 3500 pessoas foram beneficiadas pela escola, tendo participado de diferentes programas da instituição.
A escola nacional do MST é uma ideia para a solidificação do processo de construção do movimento. Todos os voluntários ficam na escola por um período que varia entre 2 e 4 anos. Neste período, eles realizam trabalhos coletivos com divisão de responsabilidades. Durante minha visita, os coordenadores políticos da instituição eram Paula Djacira e Erivan, ambos colaboravam com outros colegas e com o MST. Esta escola não possui nenhum tipo de suporte do governo e não remunera ninguém. Professores voluntários e estudantes trabalham em conjunto pela instituição e pelo movimento..
Em minha despedida, Paulo me disse que espera que o trabalho feito na escola contribua para a redefinição do futuro da sociedade. Infelizmente, os movimentos camponeses indianos não contam com escolas de formação para seus membros e líderes. Fiquei impressionado pela participação igualitária de jovens, mulheres e homens em todas a atividades seja em sala de aula, seja na cozinha. Outra coisa que me impressionou muito foi a contribuição desta instituição para os estudos latino-americanos e, por consequência, para a luta de toda a região. A escola é uma demonstração da luta coletiva dos povos da América Latina e isto é algo que não observamos na Ásia e no qual deveríamos nos espelhar.