Family farmers denounce U.S./Hunger strike highlights GMO issues (15/5/2003)

15 May 2003

Family farmers denounce U.S./Hunger strike highlights GMO issues

1.Family farmers denounce U.S. complaint against EU over GMOs
2.Hunger strike highlights issues surrounding GMOs

1.Family farmers denounce U.S. complaint against the EU over genetically modified organisms
(Wednesday, May 14, 2003 -- CropChoice news)

The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) denounced the U.S., Argentina, Canada and Egypt decision to challenge the European Union's authorization system on approval of genetically modified foods and crops at the World Trade Organization.

"USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] Secretary Ann Veneman claims she's fighting for the interests of 'American Agriculture,'" said NFFC President George Naylor. "She must be fighting for the corporate agribusiness agenda because she is definitely not  fighting for the interests of the family farmer."

Nine other countries--Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay--supported the U.S. by filing the complaint as third parties before the WTO.

"We have suffered a great deal of damage to our trade markets because agribusiness pushed a product on U.S. farmers that people of the world rightfully refused to accept," added Missouri farmer Bill Christison.

"Biotechnology is helping farmers increase yields, lower pesticide use, improve soil conservation and water pollution and help reduce hunger and poverty around the world," Veneman claimed.

"The Secretary of Agriculture needs to educate herself about the 'benefits of genetic engineering' and not depend upon the Monsanto's of the world for her information," Christison said. "In fact, most--if not all--of the 'benefits' Veneman pointed out have been proven by much research to be totally off the mark."

Christison shared his personal experience as testimony. "Where we applied chemicals on our farm, we used from 10-15 ounces of chemicals," he said. "If I were using the round-up system, we would probably be using from 60-75 ounces to achieve the same goal. And you know, massive uses of round-up facilitates a fungus which triggers sudden death syndrome in soybeans, greatly reducing yields."
2. Hunger strike highlights issues surrounding GMOs
Philippine Daily Inquirer May 12, 2003
Gerald G. Lacuarta

The three-week-old hunger strike by four environmentalists opposed to the introduction of Bt corn in the country has focused national attention to the Department of Agriculture's silent approval last year of the pest-resistant crop. It has also given a dramatic and human face to the scientific and technical issues surrounding the commercial use of genetically engineered crops, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), purportedly to increase harvest yield and quality. "The protest at the DA highlights the apparent deliberate neglect of a fundamental tenet of our democratic system, that of the public's right to know, which can only be accomplished via public debate and discussion," said Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales in a privileged speech delivered in Congress on Monday. The four hunger strikers, who have been joined by "running priest" Fr. Robert Reyes and NGO worker Ann Laracas, as well as Andrew Haralam and Michael Bengwayan in Baguio, Manny Onalan in Kalinga and hundreds of other farmers across the country, are demanding a moratorium on the commercialization-the planting and sale-of GMO crops, particularly Bt corn which was created by the US-based Monsanto Corp.  

Develop resistance

Bt corn produces the naturally occurring Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein that makes it high-yielding[???] and pest resistant, particularly to the corn borer. Groups opposed to GMOs, however, warn that the corn borer over time would eventually develop a resistance to the Bt protein, while pollen from Bt corn would contaminate local varieties and result in unexpected mutations that could never be reversed. Rosales said Congress should conduct hearings on the risks posed by GMOs and the "evidently rushed approval" by the DA of the introduction of Monsanto's Bt corn under the brand name Yieldgard. A moratorium should be ordered pending the conclusion of the congressional inquiry, she said. The DA, however, does not wont to stop the commercial application of Bt corn, maintaining that there is no scientific evidence to justify a moratorium. Monsanto's Bt corn has been tested in field trials in Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Camarines Sur and Isabela, with reported increases in yield.

Americans against

But it appears that even in the United States, where most GMO crops were developed, there is strong resistance to Bt corn. The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) has asked the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider its decision granting Bt corn a re-registration, citing a number of reasons. The ACGA had warned the EPA as early as 2001 of the negative impact of Bt corn on the market, the most glaring of which is the extremely low price US farmers are receiving for corn because of lost exports to the European Union and Asia. According to ACGA, US corn exports to the EU dropped from 2.778-million metric tons in 1995-96 to only 6,300 MT in 2000-01. US corn exports to Japan and Taiwan fell by a combined 1.5-million MT between 2000 and 2001. Amid the global uncertainty about GMOs, the ACGA said countries like China and Brazil are expanding exports of their non-GMO products. In the Philippines, Sen. Gregorio Honasan has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to release GMOs and other like substances into the environment, with penalties of six years imprisonment and a fine of P500,000. 10 percent When he filed the bill in 1998, Honasan noted that 98 percent of the 138,410 MT of soybeans imported by the country in 1996 had come from the US. He said since 30 percent of the total soybean acreage in the US is planted to transgenic genetically modified soybeans, then at least 10 percent of the soybeans imported from the US were GMO.

 "Soybean is not the only crop that we import in large numbers. Think of the corn that we manufacture into snack foods, cooking oil and animal feeds," Honasan said. The Greenpeace office in Manila has released a list of 47 products containing GMOs. On the list are popular milk, cereal, processed meat, noodle and snacks brands produced by reputable companies like Nestle, San Miguel Corp. and General Milling Corp. Speaking in the Philippines in April 2000 at the height of the protests against the field trials of Bt corn, a geneticist from the California State University, Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, said that even in the US, "there has been no testing done on the long-term effects on human health or the environment."

"Just because it's from the US doesn't mean it's safe," Stabinsky had said.

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