Man from Syngenta.../On the Edge of Lunacy (12/1/2004)

"I never thought I would hear myself say this... But if this is what foreign aid amounts to, it seems to me that there is too much of it, rather than too little. Britain's Department for International Development is beginning to do more harm than good." - George Monbiot

This week GM Watch will have a special focus on how GM is being promoted in the South. We start with 2 pieces relevant to the UK's Department for International Development - the first from the GM Watch directory - www.gmwatch.org

1.The Man from Syngenta...
2.On the Edge of Lunacy - George Monbiot

1.The Man from Syngenta... and the UK government's Department for International Development

Andrew Bennet is the Executive Director of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, which has as its declared goal 'contributing to sustainable food security for small-scale farmers'. Syngenta is the world's largest biotechnology company and Syngenta directors occupy 3 of the 5 seats on the Syngenta Foundation's board.

Immediately prior to joining the Syngenta Foundation Bennet was Director of Rural Livelihoods and Environment for the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID)  where he directly advised UK government ministers on issues like environmental protection and sustainable development.

DFID has faced strong criticism both for the extent of its support for projects involving genetic engineering and for its lack of openness about the research. In September 2002, The Independent on Sunday reported that DFID had been running a 'GBP 13.4m programme to create a new generation of GM animals, crops and drugs throughout the Third World.The so far unpublicised programme has financed research in more than 24 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe into at least 80 GM projects ranging from long-life bananas to fast-growing pigs and fish...'

DFID was accused by Dr Sue Mayer of GeneWatch UK of having 'deceived' the public about the scale of the programme. A significant number of DFID GM crop projects have been undertaken by the John Innes Centre which has also enjoyed tens of millions of pounds in investment from Syngenta.

Included in the DFID schemes were projects linked to a controversial GBP65m DFID aid programme in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh - a programme which critics allege will help push 20 million subsistence farmers off their land. The concerns about this DFID-backed project received wide-scale publicity as a result of media coverage of the findings of a citizens' jury with 'scenario workshops' (or 'prajapeertu') conducted among poor farmers and landless labourers in Andhra Pradesh who unanimously rejected the development proposals.

Andrew Bennet is understood to have been among those at DFID who encouraged criticism of those who conducted the research, Dr Michel Pimbert, of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and Dr Tom Wakeford, then of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). DFID, which provides around 70% of both institutes funding, even demanded the suppression of the report. Pimbert and Wakeford responded by accusing 'a few individuals within a major donor agency' of trying to 'silence critical reflections' by seeking to suppress a report that gave 'a bigger voice to poor and marginalised communities'.

Bennet left DFID for the Syngenta Foundation at the height of the controversy. But within months of taking up his new post he was involved in another after the Syngenta Foundation, in the words of The Guardian, 'pulled off a coup by gaining a place on the governing body of the consultative group on the international agricultural research centres (CGIAR). This is the network of international public research institutions which have been the target of biotech companies for years but, until now, escaped infiltration. Critics are appalled. "CGIAR has unabashedly adopted the corporate research agenda, thereby accepting that it ceases to follow the original mandate of conducting agricultural research for 'public good'." '  

In fact, the CGIAR's own NGO Committee (NGOC) refused to tow the official line. It decided to freeze its relationship with the CGIAR pending a review of the CGIAR's research agenda. The NGOC observed, 'the CGIAR is deviating from [its] mandate and is adopting a corporate agenda for agricultural research and development. CGIAR's consideration of Syngenta Foundation's membership is a clear indication of the trend towards the corporatisation of public agricultural research.'


2.On the Edge of Lunacy
British foreign aid is being directed to countries willing to sell off their assets to big business
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 6th January 2004 [referenced version below]

Spare a thought this bleak new year for all those who rely on charity. Open your hearts, for example, to a group of people who, though they live in London, are in such desperate need of handouts that last year they received 7.6 million pounds in foreign aid.1 The Adam Smith Institute, the ultra-rightwing lobby group, now receives more money from Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) than Liberia or Somalia, two of the most desperate nations on earth.2

Are the members of the Adam Smith Institute starving? Hardly. They work in plush offices in Great Smith Street, just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament. They hold lavish receptions and bring in speakers from all over the world. Big business already contributes generously to this good cause.

It gets what it pays for. The Institute's purpose is to devise new means for corporations to grab the resources which belong to the public realm. Its president, Madsen Pirie, claims to have invented the word privatisation.3 His was the organisation which persuaded the Conservative government to sell off the railways, deregulate the buses, introduce the poll tax, cut the top rates of income tax, outsource local government services and start to part-privatise the National Health Service and the education system. "We propose things," Madsen Pirie once boasted, "which people regard as being on the edge of lunacy. The next thing you know, they're on the edge of policy."4 In this spirit, his institute now calls for the privatisation of social security, the dismantling of the NHS and a shift from public to private education.5 It opposes government spendin

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive