Patrick Mulvany/Action Aid/WTO vs Cartagena Biosafety Protocol (28/5/2003)

"Bush, like King Knut, cannot stem this tide, but, as the US has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and hence cannot and will not be party to the Biosafety Protocol, he will use every possible weapon to force GMOs and US technology on the world, such as the GM Food Aid, WTO and the Sacramento Ministerial meeting on biotechnology in late June, peppered with a bit of cajoling and even bribery of key policy and decision makers." (item 1)

1. Patrick Mulvany on Action Aid and the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol
2. Trade rows loom over GM export treaty
3. press release on ActionAid's new report
1. Patrick Mulvany on Action Aid and the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol
from Patrick Mulvany <[email protected]>

Lots in the news as the UK GM Crops debate launches next week. The UK Food Group will be producing a short briefing as well. This follows the joint letters prepared by the UK Food Group and signed by all the BOAG Directors (Oxfam, Save the Children, Action Aid, CAFOD, Christian Aid) to the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit questioning the utility and efficacy of genetically engineered crops for smallholder farmers, the negative impacts on sustainable agricultural technologies of investments in, and patents on, genetic engineering and GMOs, and the morality of using hunger in the world to justify GM crop investment in Britain.

You may also have seen the Action Aid report "Going against the Grain" <http://www.actionaid.org/resources/pdfs/gatg.pdf > published today.

But the good news is that Colombia has ratified the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol and it now only requires one more ratification for it to come into force. The Times article pasted below says that only 48 have ratified when it is actually 49... see < www.biodiv.org/biosafety >

Bush, like King Knut,  cannot stem this tide, but, as the US has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and hence cannot and will not be party to the Biosafety Protocol, he will use every possible weapon to force GMOs and US technology on the world, such as the GM Food Aid, WTO and the Sacramento Ministerial meeting on biotechnology in late June, peppered with a bit of cajoling and even bribery of key policy and decision makers.

For example, you may like to know that the US representative - shareholder - (sic) on the CGIAR has forced the World Bank to send its vice-president for sustainable development Ian Johnson (who is also Chair of the CGIAR) to the Sacramento Ministerial meeting. Apparently, Ian Johnson will not speak on any platform but will attend, even though, he insists, he would wish not to be there!

Best wishes
Patrick Mulvany
Food Security Policy Adviser
ITDG, (Intermediate Technology Development Group)
Schumacher Centre
Bourton, RUGBY CV23 9QZ, UK
Tel: +44 1926 634469;  Fax: +44 870 127 5420
Email: [email protected]  &  [email protected]

URL: www.ukabc.org  &  www.itdg.org

Company Reg. No 871954, England; Charity No 247257
2. Trade rows loom over GM export treaty
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent
The Times, May 28, 2003

A TREATY restricting exports of genetically modified crops is likely to come into force within weeks, threatening to ignite a fresh trade row between the United States, Europe and the developing world. The Cartagena Protocol, which was drawn up in 2000, needs to be ratified by just two more countries to become legally binding and grant governments strong powers to ban the import of certain GM crops. The agreement, which has been signed by 103 countries, but not by the US, forces exporters to provide detailed information about the contents and potential environmental risks of any GM shipments, at considerable cost, before a destination country is required to accept it.

Under its "precautionary approach", governments will be allowed to block imports if they are not satisfied with this information, although they must base such decisions on "sound science".

The protocol's provisions, however, conflict sharply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which allow imports to be restricted only when there is clear scientific evidence that a crop, either GM or conventional, could harm human health or the environment.  Lawyers, environmentalists and industry groups are agreed that a clash between the two sets of rules is inevitable, as anti-GM politicians, particularly in Europe, seek to prevent transgenic crops from reaching their markets. 

Last week, the US announced it was to sue the European Union at the WTO unless it lifted its ban on the approval of new GM products. The introduction of the Cartagena rules is likely to trigger new trade disputes, not least as the US will be severely affected by them even though it has not signed the treaty.

The protocol was ratified last week by Colombia, where the Cartagena negotiations that led to the pact took place, bringing the number of ratifications to 48. It will come into force once it has been ratified by 50 countries. 

Britain has signed but has yet to ratify the protocol, although this is due to take place shortly and the country could even be the one to tip the balance. The protocol will have to be incorporated into law by an Act of Parliament, and while no legislation has been tabled preparations are well advanced. 

Klaus Toepfer, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said that the treaty would greatly strengthen the hand of countries not comfortable accepting GM products. "This gives power to the importers," he said. "With the protocol we have a very clear basis for transparent discussions on the shipping of GM organisms."  But he added: "There might well be a clash with the WTO at some stage. There might be a problem that the WTO is saying you have to take these products, and that the Cartagena Protocol is saying you are entitled to say no." 

Environmental lawyers said that while the protocol and WTO rules have equal standing in theory, it would in practice be up to the WTO's disputes panel to decide if a country had really followed "sound science" in rejecting a GM product. 

Another potential problem surrounds the issue of what constitutes a GM product under the Cartagena system. The protocol does not stipulate what percentage of a food shipment must be genetically modified for the rules to apply, and exporters are concerned that some countries will seek to use the system against conventional shipments that are not guaranteed to be 100 per cent GM-free. In countries such as the US, Canada and Argentina that grow GM crops on a large scale, these are often difficult to segregate from conventional crops, and a strict interpretation of the Cartagena rules would impose massive extra costs on exports.

Critics of the protocol say that it will create an unnecessary barrier to trade and hold up the introduction of GM crops in the developing world, which has most to gain from the technology.  Vivian Moses, the chairman of the pro-GM CropGen panel, said: "This seems to me an incredible degree of bureaucracy, building absurd structures in order to satisfy mythical needs."
3. Press release on ActionAid's new report, GM Crops - Going Against the Grain that will be launched on Wednesday 28 May.
You can download a copy at: http://www.actionaid.org/resources/pdfs/gatg.pdf

For more information or to set up interviews contact: Hannah Crabtree in the ActionAid media office on + 44 (0) 20 7561 7627 or 077539 73486 (out of hours). 
Embargoed: 00:01 Wednesday 28 May
News hook: the public debate on GM starting 3 June

No evidence that GM will help solve world hunger

GM crops will not feed the world and could pose a considerable threat to poor farmers, warns a new report launched today by ActionAid. GM Crops - Going Against the Grain examines biotech companies' claims that genetically modified (GM) crops can tackle world hunger. The report is being submitted to the Government in advance of the UK public debate starting on 3 June.

GM Crops - Going Against the Grain reveals that at best GM crops are irrelevant to poor farmers, at worst they threaten to push them deeper into debt, making them more reliant on expensive seeds and chemicals and unable to save seed from one harvest to the next.

"The UK public should not be duped into accepting GM in the name of developing countries. GM does not provide a magic bullet solution to world hunger. What poor people really need is access to land, water, better roads to get their crops to market, education and credit schemes," said Matthew Lockwood, ActionAid's Head of Policy.

Using evidence from ActionAid campaigns in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the report takes a balanced look at the impact of GM crops in developing countries. It concludes that rather than alleviating world hunger, the new technology is likely to exacerbate food insecurity, leading to more hungry people not less. 

Key findings from report:

·    GM seeds are far more suited to the needs of large-scale commercial farmers rather than poor farmers.

·    GM expansion is driven by corporate profit not the needs of poor people. Four multinationals - Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and DuPont - control most of the GM seed market. By linking their chemicals to seeds via GM technologies, these corporations have extended markets for their herbicides and pesticides.

·    Farmers are not allowed to trade or save GM seed from one harvest to the next. 'Terminator technology' is also being developed that produces sterile seeds.

·    There is no consistent evidence GM crops yield more and require fewer chemicals. In one study, Monsanto's GM soya had 6% lower yields than non-GM soya and 11% less than high-yielding non-GM soya.

·    Insecticide use on GM cotton has fallen in some locations, but these gains may be short-lived. Chemical use on herbicide-resistant GM crops has sometimes gone up rather than down.

In Pakistan, ActionAid has investigated how poor farmers have been enticed by the hype surrounding GM to buy expensive 'miracle' cotton seeds. The results have been disappointing, with many farmers losing most of their crops and facing ruin.

The report recommends that there should be no further commercialisation of GM crops until more research has been carried out on their impacts, especially in poor countries. Also, poor countries and their farmers must have the right to open public debates before they decide whether to go ahead with GM crops.

Key GM statistics:

In 2002 GM crops covered 58 million hectares worldwide - an area two and a half times the size of the UK.

Only 1% of GM research is aimed at crops used by poor farmers. The US biotech industry spends $250 million a year promoting GM. A small range of useful looking GM crops aimed at the poor are being researched but they stand only a 1 in 250 chance of making it into farmers fields.

The four corporations that control most of the GM seed market had a combined turnover from agrochemicals and seeds of $21.6 billion in 2001.

91% of all GM crops grown worldwide in 2001 were from Monsanto seeds.

"We know there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone. What is causing world hunger is poverty and inequality. Money would be far better spent tackling these problems than poured into GM technology," said Adriano Campolina Soares from ActionAid Brazil.


"European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa" - George W. Bush

"U.S. aid remains well below historical standards and far below other donor countries." http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/oneworld/20030522/wl_oneworld /118151053610546

"But this is far more than a food fight. In a very real sense, it's the same struggle recently demonstrated in Iraq" - Dennis Avery in 'Biotechnology, Iraq and the Shape of Tomorrow's World', Center for Global Food Issues, May 23, 2003

"The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans." - USAID website

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