|DfID/Syngenta/Brown slammed (11/12/2005)|
1.DFID/Syngenta Plans for Africa - overview
COMMENT: GM Free Cymru are to be congratulated on the dossier they've opened on Syngenta's highly questionable business practises, including of course the Bt10 corn scandal - see item 3b.
1. Subject: DFID/Syngenta Plans for Africa
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Much has already been made of the close ties between Monsanto and USAID, and their combined pressure on Africa to accept GMOs through funding GM agricultural research, GM promotion programmes, and weak biosafety frameworks.
But we should not let ourselves get so distracted that we fail to notice another powerful GM industry/ government alliance seeking to influence the agricultural future of Africa. With the release of two reports this week, we are starting to get the feeling that a similar partnership might be developing between GM company Syngenta and the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID).
The release of DFID's Paper 'Growth and Poverty Reduction: the role of agriculture'
http://www.dfid.gov.uk/news/files/growth-poverty-agriculture.asp on Wednesday demonstrated that DFID took little notice of recommendations sent in by NGOs working directly with farmers and food security issues in Africa. The paper sets out an agricultural plan for Africa and developing countries that includes GM crops, cheap biosafety systems, and support for the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), which is committed to bringing GM crops to the African market.
The DFID paper was preceded by another one jointly written by the Smith Institute, (which was set up by Labour, the ruling party in the UK Government) and Syngenta. http://www.smith-institute.org.uk/publications.htm The paper is called 'Going for Growth in Africa: science, technology and innovation in Africa'. One of its chapters was written by Michael Pragnell, CEO of Syngenta, who unsurprisingly emphasizes 'technological upgrading' as a solution to Africa's agricultural problems. Pragnell proudly shows Syngenta's close ties to governments, and apparently sees nothing wrong in the industry writing laws to regulate itself on GMOs. 'Syngenta has been able to work successfully with the authorities in Burkina Faso in supporting their development of regulatory expertise in new technologies".
The Smith Institute paper also explicitly mentions the AATF as a partner, but generally avoids talking explicitly about GM crops too much, whilst clearly laying the framework for a patented GM agriculture approach.
Perhaps the combined Syngenta/ DFID agenda for Africa should not be so surprising, since the Head of Science policy for DFID is GM supporter Sir Gordon Conway, who used to head the Rockerfeller Foundation, and the head of the Syngenta Foundation is Andrew Bennett, who used to work for DFID.
These developments suggest that the DFID/ Syngenta plans for African agriculture should be watched closely by GM campaigners.
1. Benn Defends Aid for GM Crops
2. DFID Ignores Evidence on GM
3. Access All Areas
5. Aid for Poor Countries Must Focus on Farming - UK Article from Reuters. Date: 8 December 2005
2.DFID ignores evidence on GM
a.. The Chinese authorities failed to agree to license GM rice because the lack of safety data. 
b.. South Africa has recently halted approvals of new applications to import GM maize pending a study into their impact on South African trade. 
c.. The Indian State Andhra Pradesh has suspended the permission to sell GM BT cotton varieties after crop failures. 
d.. Argentina is experiencing growing environmental, social and health problems associated with widespread GM soya cultivation. 
DFID's strategy for agriculture relies on unproven public - private partnerships with brokers such as the African Agricultural Technology Foundation developing GM crops suitable for southern farmers. In 2003 the Commission for Intellectual Property Rights reported to DFID on the potential impact of patenting laws on poorer smaller farmers who rely on saving seed from one harvest to the next . At an earlier DFID stake holder meeting on the strategy, DFID officials said that the inclusion of biotechnology in the strategy was "non-negotiable".
Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
"DFID appear to be blind to the performance of GM crops around the world and growing doubts about their safety and suitability. Their over reliance on GM crops to solve poverty is very worrying. The biotech industry's record on this to date is not impressive and public private partnerships have produced very little to date. DFID is in danger of ignoring many more cheaper and accessible solutions to increase productivity and alleviate poverty for farmers in southern countries".