"It's important that people in Europe realise that it's not true when the media here say that family farmers' organisations are backing [GM foods]. The organisations that back it are pseudo-farm organisations that take corporate advertising from these firms." George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soya-bean farmer for 26 years and the president of the National Family Farm Coalition 9item 2)
Luke Anderson, a spokesman for the Genetic Engineering Action Network in Britain, said the massive security operation was "a sign of an empire growing increasingly insecure". (item 2)
for more on Dan Amstutz (item 1) and the corporate connections he has denied
The Cargill backed company he was part of only folded in Dec. 2001 despite which Amstutz told the press recently, "I left Cargill in 1978 and have had no affiliation with them whatsoever."
1. Against the grain
2. US food conference fails to unite farmers on GM crops
Against the grain
The Guardian, Wednesday July 2, 2003
What's the betting that Iraq turns to GM crops within a year? Dan Amstutz, the American charged with running the country's agriculture, has been widely criticised by Oxfam - not least because he drafted the World Trade Organisation's Uruguay round, which has ruined so many developing countries. Amstutz plays down his corporate connections (he used to work for giant grain company Cargill), but it seems he's chairman of the board of directors of a new company set up by some of the biggest agribusiness and GM companies in the world - including Cargill and DuPont.
US food conference fails to unite farmers on GM crops
The Guardian, Wednesday July 2, 2003
The Killer Tomatoes Meet the Sacramento Riot Police may sound more like the title of a horror movie than the summary of one of the largest conferences ever held on the future of food, but last week's gathering in the Californian state capital was no ordinary event.
To the organisers of the ministerial conference and expo on agricultural science and technology, who consisted mainly of various branches of the US government, it was about helping poor nations address hunger through new farming technologies.Ministers from more than 100 countries accepted invitations to attend.
To the protesters who demonstrated throughout the event, it was a cynical last-ditch attempt by the US government to bail out the American biotechnology industry in general - and its largest practitioner, Monsanto, in particular.
So what came out of the official and unofficial gatherings? As far as Ann Veneman, the US agriculture secretary, was concerned, it was a chance to spread the word of the benefits of technology in general. In her keynote speech, she said: "Biotechnology is already helping both small- and large-scale farmers around the world by boosting yields, lowering costs, reducing pesticide use and making crops more resistant to disease, pests and drought."
She said the aim of the conference was to help developing countries reduce world hunger by 2015 - the date set by agriculture secretaries at the World Food summit last year in response to statistics that indicate that 800 million people currently face chronic hunger or malnutrition.
The US is currently mounting a very aggressive campaign in support of bio-technology aimed at forcing the European Union to end its ban on genetically modified food, a demand that will be brought to the World Trade Organisation conference in Cancun, Mexico, in September.
President George Bush became part of this campaign last week when he told 5,000 delegates at the Biotechnology Industry Organisation conference in Washington that opposition to GM food was impeding efforts to fight starvation in Africa.
"For the sake of a continent threatened by famine, I urge the European governments to end their opposition to biotechnology," said Bush, at his most bullish. "Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments have blocked the import of all new biotech crops. Because of these artificial obstacles, many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out of important European markets."
It would be fair to assume that when Bush visits countries throughout Africa next week, the subject will again be raised.
More than 70 people were arrested at the Sacramento conference, which was very heavily policed with officers in riot gear standing guard over delegates. Among the protesters were a number of farmers who have been outspoken in their opposition to genetic engineering. So what did they feel had come out of the contrasting gatherings?
George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soya-bean farmer for 26 years and the president of the National Family Farm Coalition, said at the close of the conference that the event had been extremely useful for raising the issue of GM foods both nationally and internationally.
"It's important that people in Europe realise that it's not true when the media here say that family farmers' organisations are backing [GM foods]," said Naylor. "The organisations that back it are pseudo-farm organisations that take corporate advertising from these firms. The idea that [GM foods] are important for ridding the world of hunger is 100% baloney. I would hope the message has got out from this week that a lot of us who are farmers don't agree with the aggressive trade policy that this country has been pursuing."
Another farmer, Walt Kessler, of Family Farm Defenders, who is a dairy farmer near Sacramento, said he thought that the message was gradually getting through. "We wanted to inform the public that [GM food] is not necessary, that there is no shortage of food," said Kessler, who saw the conference and expo as the work of a "bio-genetic cartel".
Patrick Reinsborough, of the Mobilisation for Food Sovereignty, Democracy and Justice group, described the event as the largest protest on genetic engineering ever held in the US. "People are starting to draw the connections and see how the government is using food as a weapon exclusively for the benefits of US corporations," he said.
And Luke Anderson, a spokesman for the Genetic Engineering Action Network in Britain, said the massive security operation was "a sign of an empire growing increasingly insecure".
Next stop, Cancun.
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