|GM will not solve world hunger - Catholic Institute for International Relations (2/3/2004)|
"If the UK and Europe give the go-ahead to the commercialisation of GM crops and foods, developing countries will be put under further pressure to follow suit. The introduction of GM crops in countries with weak institutions and lax regulations will result in food insecurity, poverty and environmental vulnerability for millions of heavily disadvantaged farmers. It will also further tighten corporate control of production."
GM will not solve world hunger, says CIIR
1 March 2004 - Recent moves by the biotech lobby to pitch genetically modified (GM) organisms as a solution to world hunger are an irresponsible misrepresentation of the situation, says CIIR.
Far from being part of the solution, GM seeds and their additional expensive inputs would exacerbate world food insecurity and suffering.
The government is poised to announce its position on GM crops in the UK and seems likely to give the go-ahead to the commercialisation of GM maize.
Elisabet Lopez, CIIRs Environmental Campaign Coordinator, said: "The issue of GM is particularly relevant to CIIRs work with disadvantaged farmers in developing countries who are implementing sustainable agricultural techniques to reduce poverty and environmental vulnerability."
She added: "Most farmers in developing countries struggle to afford even the most basic inputs and cannot always afford to buy seeds each growing season. Their food security is dependent on selecting, saving and sharing seeds from year to year an age-old practice that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable."
Many developing countries have continued to reject GM technology, despite mounting pressure on them to agree to it. The Lusaka declaration in November 2002 saw consumer leaders from 20 African countries reject GM technology because they did not believe it would alleviate hunger in Africa.
Representatives of the Catholic Church, including Fr Roland Lesseps and Fr Peter Henriot in Zambia, have added their voices to the growing dissent. Both priests have first-hand knowledge of the problems that face poor rural communities in developing countries and believe patented seeds will reduce access to crops and increase hunger as well as environmental and health uncertainties in vulnerable communities.
While presenting GM as a solution to world hunger, biotech multinationals apply for patents on the so-called Terminator Technology that makes seeds sterile. They then promote this as a means to contain contamination of non-GM crops. But the reality is that this technology serves as a tool to prevent farmers from saving and sharing seeds, thus ensuring the profits go straight to the biotech multinationals.
CIIR believes that what happens in the UK will set a clear precedent for the rest of the world. If the UK and Europe give the go-ahead to the commercialisation of GM crops and foods, developing countries will be put under further pressure to follow suit. The introduction of GM crops in countries with weak institutions and lax regulations will result in food insecurity, poverty and environmental vulnerability for millions of heavily disadvantaged farmers. It will also further tighten corporate control of production.
Ms Lopez said: "GM crops pose a serious threat to food security because they would make poor farmers dependent on expensive inputs. They also constitute a serious danger to genetic diversity and to the farmers ability to choose non-GM crops.
"The Green Revolution did not work for poor farmers in developing countries because it prescribed a one-size-fits-all approach to agriculture. Now, those who heralded the Green Revolution as the solution, present GM in the same light."
She added: "Food insecurity cannot be solved by technological fixes. If we are to help poor farmers in developing countries, we need to take a close look at the real causes behind poverty, such as social and economic inequalities. Undoubtedly, technology has an important role to play but it needs to be economically, culturally and environmentally appropriate."
For further information contact: Finola Robinson 020 7288 8619 [email protected]