Bush slams Europe over GM crops for Africa (22/5/2003)

George GM-or-Death Bush (items 1 & 4) and Devinder Sharma go head to head with the publication of Devinder's powerful recent analysis of US efforts to impose GMOs on the Third World in South Africa's 'Business Report', a newspaper with a readership of about 250,000 (see item 3).

Devinder's article will particularly resonate in South Africa - a country who's government is willingly, and exceptionally for southern Africa, working hand in glove with Monsanto. It faces severe criticism for its lack of regulatory transparency, accountability and for its complete failure to inspect, monitor or oversee GM crops. These criticisms are being renewed amidst worries over Monsanto's application to use South Africa as a testing ground for a novel type of GM cotton involving multiple 'stacking' genes. (item 2)
*Bush slams Europe over GM crops for Africa
*Novel Genetically Engineered Cotton crop to be tested in SA.
*US seeks to force-feed scientific apartheid to Third World
*Bush scolds Europe on biotech food, global aid
Bush slams Europe over GM crops for Africa
Source - Reuters Commodities News (Eng)
Thursday, May 22, 2003  05:47
By Adam Entous

NEW LONDON, Conn., May 21 (Reuters) - With trans-Atlantic relations still strained by the Iraq war, President George W. Bush on Wednesday opened a new front by accusing Europe of impeding American efforts to combat famine and poverty in Africa and beyond.

 Bush did not mention the bitter opposition spearheaded in Europe to the military campaign that ousted Saddam Hussein.   But he made clear other disputes, including one over Europe's de facto ban on genetically modified food, clouded U.S.-European relations, and said he would step up pressure when he tours the continent beginning May 30 with stops in Poland, Russia and France.

 At a commencement ceremony for the Coast Guard Academy, Bush also sought to reassure anxious Americans a day after the government raised its terror alert status to the second-highest level, citing the risk of attacks on American soil after bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.   "We will hunt the terrorists in every dark corner of the Earth," he said.  Less than three weeks after declaring that "we have seen the turning of the tide," Bush said al Qaeda's "treachery continues" despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some Democrats say Bush's campaign in Iraq undercut the war against al Qaeda, allowing the network accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to regroup. Osama bin Laden, the network's leader, remains at large.   Anti-war protesters stood outside the Academy's gates. "What lies next, Mr. Bush?" one sign said.


Bush used Wednesday's address to highlight a friendlier side of U.S. foreign policy -- dominated since he came to office by two wars and trans-Atlantic tension over Iraq.   "The national interest of America involves more than eliminating aggressive threats to our safety," said Bush. "America's national ambition is the spread of free markets, free trade and free societies."

Hoping to foster goodwill in regions suspicious of U.S. intentions, Bush said he would send more American volunteers overseas and touted a new aid program for developing countries that combat corruption, respect human rights and open markets.   He urged European nations to "match their good intentions with real resources" to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa, while touting his own $15 billion plan to combat the pandemic, which he will sign into law next week.

Despite the AIDS money, Democrats said Bush's budget would cut other critical foreign assistance programs. "The president's words do not yet match his deeds," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Bush also accused Europe of undercutting efforts to feed starving Africans by blocking the use of genetically modified crops, which he said could "dramatically" boost productivity.   "Our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears," Bush said. "This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in bio-technologies for fear that their products will be shut out of European markets. European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."

The United States plans to sue the European Union unless it quickly opens its market to genetically modified (GMO) products. France, which led opposition to the Iraq war, is also leading the GMO-skeptics in Europe, where consumer sentiment against the products runs high.

Biotech crops are engineered to repel predatory insects and better withstand weed killers. Critics say they could endanger human health and cause unforeseen damage to the environment.
Novel Genetically Engineered Cotton crop to be tested in SA
Press Release from SAFeAGE; Cape Town, May 20, 2003.

An application to plant, grow and test a new type of genetically engineered cotton in South Africa has recently been lodged by a subsidiary of Monsanto Corporation, responsible for over 90% of the worlds genetically engineered (GE) crops.

This type of cotton differs significantly from existing GE crops in South Africa. Present GE crops contain what is known as a single trait; thus they may include a genetic construction to confer resistance to weevils or to chemicals, depending on the added gene. This cotton contains three genetic constructs; two insect resistant genes and one herbicide resistant gene. This triple genetic trait cotton raises deep concerns in the South African situation.

First is the lack of regulatory transparency, accountability and capacity in SA. The Department of Agriculture's Directorate of Genetic Resources has adamantly refused to share any information concerning existing data on trial and general releases of GE crops. A court case for access to this information is presently under way. The Government is opposing this request and has recently been joined in the case by Monsanto. Moreover the Directorate has regularly admitted that insufficient capacity is in place to inspect, monitor or oversee present GE crops.

NGO Biowatch voiced its concern about the manner in which this application was released to the public.  "The release of an unknown GMO into the environment is an event of national importance, yet this company is required to place only an advert in a small local newspaper. This process does not encourage public participation," said spokesperson Elfrieda Pschorn-Strauss. (Note- The trial was announced in a small advertisement in "Die Zoutpansburger", an Afrikaans newspaper based in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province.)

The failure of transparently accountable oversight and regulation of these crops in how they are grown, controlled and overseen is of questionable legality, as public participation in all potentially risky environmental actions is required by law. Extremely limited public input was accepted to guide the laws and regulations that are meant to manage the risks of GE technology; instead they favour those who are introducing GE crops and food into South Africa.

Most important is the nature of this new type of cotton crop. The scientific concerns around this technology, even in its simple, single gene stage, are profound and real and have failed to be objectively addressed. While internal industry studies have been done, much of the information has failed to stand up to independent scrutiny.

The fact is that this type of crop is new and regulatory data from the rest of the world are almost non-existent. Moreover the complexity of the stacked triple gene demands the highest levels of regulatory oversight. Issues of liability, post harvest follow-up and other implications have been insufficiently addressed.

SAFeAGE spokesperson Glenn Ashton said, "We are strongly opposed to this trial and feel that given the flawed regulatory regime in South Africa this application should be refused out of hand. We cannot afford to further subsidise the interests of this industry at potentially incalculable cost. We insist that a conservative and precautionary approach be taken, rather than the present cavalier and opaque system that facilitates the introduction of these novel and untested crops. We reiterate our call for a moratorium on all GE crops in South Africa, and indeed the region until the need, desirability and safety of these crops is conclusively shown in open public review."

Issued By SAFeAGE, The South African Freeze Alliance on GE, representing a quarter of a million South African citizens concerned about the issues raised by GE crops and food. http://www.safeage.org

For more details contact Glenn Ashton, at +27+21-789-1751
Biowatch; +27+21-447-5918.
US seeks to force-feed scientific apartheid to Third World
Business Report, South Africa

The noose is slowly tightening. An all-out offensive has been launched, using the three most important instruments of economic power - the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - along with the badly bruised but democratically elected governments.

This time, the target is not oil but to force the world to accept genetically modified (GM) food and crops.  The battle for controlling the global food chain has begun.  The US administration fired the first missile this month by formally launching a complaint with the WTO against the European Union (EU) for its five-year ban on approving new biotech crops.  This action has set the stage for an international showdown over an increasingly controversial issue.

US trade representative Robert Zoellick says the European policy is illegal, harming the US economy, stunting the growth of the biotech industry and contributing to starvation in the developing world.

Coinciding with the frontal attack through the dispute panel is a seemingly harmless exercise to close ranks around flawed economic policies.  Senior officials of the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank met in Geneva this month to deliberate on how to bring greater "coherence" in their policies through "liberalisation of trade and financial flows, deregulation, privatisation and budget austerity".

As if the loan conditions of the IMF/World Bank - forcing developing countries to lower their trade barriers, cut subsidies for their domestic food producers, and eliminate safety nets for rural agriculture - were not enough, the WTO agreement on agriculture could be used very effectively to allow the US and 12 other food-exporting countries to dump unwanted genetically altered food.

Such a policy would destroy food self-sufficiency in developing countries and expand markets for the large grain-exporting companies.

Trade and financial manipulations alone are not enough.  With the UN no longer relevant, any such global offensive needs political allies.  Therefore, three ministers from each of the 180 invited countries - holding the portfolios of trade, agriculture and health - will assemble in Sacramento, California on June 23-25.

The invitation, which comes from US agriculture secretary Ann Veneman, is essentially for educating (in reality intimidating) these democratically elected representatives on the virtues of GM food and why they must back the US transnational corporations' fight against global hunger.  And if they choose not to do so, then why they must remain quiet, as they did when the US was searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The three-pronged attack will force the EU to either alter its policy towards GM crops and food, which some consumer groups call "Franken food", or face economic sanctions across a range of sectors.

For the US, European markets for GM crops and seed are potentially worth several billion dollars a year.

For the rest of the world, Veneman will explain the consequences - both economic and political - of not accepting the fruits of this "cutting edge" technology, as genetic engineering is fondly called.

The first GM Ministerial, therefore, is not open to the public.

The machinations to push unhealthy and risky GM food actually began a decade ago.

The US has so far opposed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which has been signed by over 100 countries and is intended to ensure, through agreed international rules and regulations, that countries have the necessary information to make informed choices about GM food and crops.  The US made every possible attempt to see that the Cartagena Protocol did not come through.

Whether it is the Cartagena Protocol or the Kyoto Protocol, the US continues to defy the international order.  Even the Convention on Biological Diversity was ratified by the US at a stage when it realised it had nothing to lose in the event of adequate protection granted by the trade-related intellectual property rights (Trips).

The US continues to hold the world's largest collection of plant germ plasm - about 600 000 plant accessions - which actually belongs to the developing world.  These plant collections, forcibly held in custody, are the raw material for the multibillion-dollar US biotechnology industry.  In addition, the biotechnology industry has earned an estimated $ 5.4 billion from biopiracy alone.

With the biotech patents coming into force and the definition of micro-organism extended to include genes and cell lines, the US has ensured that once the Trips agreement is internationally harmonised in 2005, it will be the beginning of the end for public sector research in agriculture in the developing countries.

In the words of Ismail Serageldin, a former chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR): "Whenever the product and process patents in food and agriculture come into effect, it will be a scientific apartheid against Third World."

Agricultural research, which has been instrumental in ushering in food self-sufficiency in many Third World countries in the post-green revolution era, is being gradually dismantled.  The CGIAR itself is under great pressure from the agribusiness corporations, which see it as the main obstacle to the process of control and manipulation.  With research priorities shifting from national requirements to servicing the biotechnology industry, as in India, it will be a matter of time before developing countries begin to return to the frightening days of "ship-to-mouth" existence.

Food aid to starving populations is about meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of those who are in dire need.  Ideally, it should not be to push the commercial interests of the biotechnology corporations (while staying away from the international consensus such as the Cartagena Protocol), or planting GM crops for export, or indeed finding outlets for domestic surplus.  The US literally arm-twisted four African countries into accepting GM food at the height of the food scarcity that prevailed in the central and southern regions of the continent last year.  It even tried forcing the International Federation of Red Cross to lift the GM food restriction to feed the hungry in Africa.

That strategy didn't work.  Zambia led the resistance against GM food, saying it would prefer its poor to die than to feed them with unhealthy food.

The US has finally found a way to force African countries into submission.  The US senate has passed a bill, entitled The US Leadership Against HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, which links financial aid for combating HIV/Aids with the acceptance of GM food.  Section 104A says: "Individuals infected with HIV have higher nutritional requirements than individuals who are not infected with HIV, particularly with respect to the need for protein.  

"Also, there is evidence to suggest that the full benefit of therapy to treat HIV/Aids may not be achieved in individuals who are malnourished, particularly in pregnant and lactating women."  The next sentence reads: "It is therefore the sense of congress that US food assistance should be accepted by countries with large populations of individuals infected or living with HIV/Aids, particularly African countries, to help feed such individuals."

The underlying objective is very clear: the US can use the verdict to stop humanitarian aid for HIV/Aids, unless the recipient countries first buy GM food.

This is not an isolated effort. The Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with the US-based Madison Institute, had earlier launched a project called the Madison Initiative.  Under the guise of humanitarian aid and support, the Madison Initiative was aimed at pushing GM crops to tide over the increasing food insecurity arising from the growing vulnerability of economies affected by HIV/Aids.  The basic premise is that HIV/Aids has taken a heavy toll of able-bodied rural males in most parts of Africa.  As a result, there is not enough manpower to undertake agricultural operations like the spraying of pesticides.  Therefore, these countries must accept GM crops like Bt maize, which they say require less chemical spraying.

In 1986, the US enacted similar legislation, called Bumper's Amendment, that prohibited "agricultural development activities, consultation, publication, conference, or training in connection with the growth and production in a foreign country of an agricultural commodity for export that would compete with a similar commodity grown or produced in the US".  As a result, US support for research and development for crops competing with those grown in the US were stopped.

No wonder, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the CGIAR and numerous other developing country agricultural programmes continue to remain starved for financial support.  With national research programmes closing down for paucity of funds, the field is now open for the biotech industry to take over.

Never before has the world been forced to accept technologies - howsoever risky these might be, and that includes nuclear power - in the name of sustainable development.  Never before has any country tried to force-feed a hungry continent by creating a false scenario of an impending famine.  Never before have science and technology been sacrificed in such a shameful manner for the sake of commercial growth and profit.

Devinder Sharma
Bush scolds Europe on biotech food, global aid
May 21, 2003
Agence France Presse English [via Agnet]
Olivier Knox

NEW LONDON, Connecticut  - A week before he heads to Europe, US President George W. Bush on Wednesday was cited as scolding allies there on aid to poor nations, notably accusing them of hindering efforts to fight famine in Africa.

Bush, who will see leading critics of the war in Iraq when the world's wealthiest nations and Russia meet in France June 1-3, was cited as saying the European ban on genetically modified foods was an obstacle to battling widespread starvation, "Our partners in Europe are impeding this effort.  They have blocked all new biocrops because of unfounded, unscientific fears," he said in a graduation-day speech to the US Coast Guard Academy.

“This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in biotechnologies, for fear that their products will be shut out of European markets.   European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa.When I travel to Europe next week, I will challenge our allies to make a similar commitment which will save even more lives. I will remind them that the clock is ticking. I will urge our European partners, and Japan and Canada to join a great mission of rescue and to match their good intentions with real resources."

The story further says that Bush, who has made receiving US aid from a special new account contingent on political and market reforms, also urged Europe to end agricultural export subsidies -- an enduring thorn in the side of US-Europe relations.

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