Biotech foods: David versus Goliath in Curitiba (10/3/2006)

note briefings at end

Biotech foods: David versus Goliath
Developing countries fight with big business over safety laws
media advisory
friends of the earth international
friday 10 march 2006

CURITIBA (BRAZIL), 10 March 2006 - The battle between the majority of developing countries and some of the world's biggest corporations will peak on March 13-17, 2006 in Brazil.

United Nations talks on the global trade in genetically modified (GM), or biotech foods and crops will highlight the gap between countries demanding the right to regulate imports of GM products and the huge business interests that seek to benefit from weak rules.

The identification and labeling of imports of GM products will be the key debate in Curitiba. (1) The biotech industries consistently opposed clear identification and labelling requirements for any of the GM crops on the market today. Without clear labelling many countries, especially developing countries with their limited resources, are unable to protect their food supply and environment from GM contamination.(2)

Nnimmo Bassey, International Coordinator of the Friends of the Earth GM Campaign said: "These talks are key to protecting the environment and the world's food supply from contamination from the biotech industry. Every country should have the right to know what is being imported and to decide if they want to eat genetically modified foods or not. African countries and other developing countries will not be the dumping ground for genetically modified crops that no one else wants."

The UN Biosafety Protocol, which was originally agreed in January 2000, provides basic international rules that allow mainly developing countries to regulate the safety of GM foods, crops and seeds. It has been ratified by 132 countries but the three main countries that grow GM crops – the United States, Argentina and Canada - have refused to support it. Talks broke down in Montreal in June 2005 after Brazil and New Zealand blocked proposals that would have allowed the majority of developing countries to know if GM grains were being imported.

Ten years after the first significant planting of GM crops, no plants with benefits to consumers or the environment have materialized and GM crops have failed to deliver the promises of the biotech industry. More than 80% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only three countries: the US, Argentina and Canada. Friends of the Earth International recently published a report (3) that concluded:

GM crops are not "green". Monsanto's GM soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use. The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America is fostering deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.

GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty. Most GM crops commercialized so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. In Argentina, the second biggest producer of GM crops in the world, only 2% of the soya stays in the country. Other developing countries, such as Indonesia and India, have experienced substantial problems with Monsanto’s GM crops, often leaving farmers heavily indebted.

The biotech industry has failed to introduce the promised "new generation" of GM crops with consumer benefits. After 30 years of research, only two modifications have made it to the marketplace on any scale: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance.

for more information contact

In Curitiba, Brazil
Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International / Friends of the Earth Nigeria
Tel: +234 8037274395 (Nigerian mobile) or email <[email protected]
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe Tel +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile) or email [email protected]

In Europe
Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International Tel +34 6259 805 820 (Spanish mobile)

notes to editors

(1) For a full briefing on the Biosafety Protocol see: http://www.foei.org/gmo/Briefing_Curitiba.pdf

(2) See FoEI Briefing: Tackling GM contamination: making segregation and identification a reality http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/contamination3.pdf

(3) See http://www.foei.org/media/2006/0110.html

for more information:
Background on biosafety:

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