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Ryan Griffis on Sun, 29 Jun 2003 13:45:29 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> sacramento update info

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Activists Say U.S. Manipulating Meet to Promote GM Food

by Katrin Dauenhauer

WASHINGTON, Jun 23 (IPS) - Activists have gathered at a California
conference this week to counter what they call the U.S.  administration's
attempts to force-feed genetically engineered (GM) crops on developing

They reject Washington's argument that science and technology provide all
the answers to fight against hunger.

"It is a myth that science and technology play a critical role in reducing
hunger in developing countries. The claim that we must accept genetically
engineered foods if we are to feed the poor in the Third World is simply
'poorwashing'," Anuradha Mittal of California-based Food First told IPS on

Hunger is a complex phenomenon that cannot be solved by technology alone.
We need political commitment and not technology.  Countries suffering from
hunger need basic social economic change,* she added.

A growing number of activists and Third World farmers and politicians
challenge the value of genetically engineered (GE) food and instead stress
the importance of access to food, local food sovereignty and capacity
building as essential tools to solve the problem of hunger.

In a report prepared for the conference, which is sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, its Agency for International Development
(USAID), and the Department of State, activists say that the development
of GE technology has not focused on feeding people but on securing markets
for the world's largest agro-chemical and biotech companies.

"Genetically engineered crops are instruments of industrialised
agriculture," said Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC Group and one of the authors
of the report, 'Voices from the South: The Third World Debunks Corporate
Myths on Genetically Engineered Crops'.

"They benefit the richest people in the world, not the hungriest,'' he
continued. ''GE crops are designed to take control of production of food
away from local communities, by creating greater dependence on huge
agribusiness corporations for seed and pesticides."

The report says there is already enough food in the world to feed the
population one and a half times over but that poverty and inequality are
leading to starvation. In fact, almost 80 percent of the countries that
face hunger are food-exporting nations, it adds.

The three-day Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and
Technology, billed as the first meeting of its kind, has brought together
ministers of agriculture, health and environment from over 120 nations.
For three days, participants will discuss the role of science and
technology in reducing hunger and poverty in the developing world.

On Sunday, protesters who took to the street in the city of Sacramento
were met by a small army of riot policemen. Local news reports said 36
people were arrested and that larger demonstrations, of about 5,000
people, were expected Monday.

Many critics see the conference as another means for the Bush
administration to promote its GM policies.

It comes as the United States is pressing the World Trade Organization
(WTO) to force the European Union (EU) to accept genetically modified food
(GMF), after having filed a formal complaint with the trade body last

"This ministerial is about U.S. arm twisting to force feed the world
corporate controlled 'free trade' and genetically engineered food.  
Countries around the world are rejecting genetically engineered food
because it is an unnecessary, dangerous technology which has been
disastrous for small farmers, consumers and the environment," said Doyle
Canning of the Institute for Social Ecology's Biotechnology Project.

"What farmers in the developing world need are policies that give farming
communities control over their own resources and build on local ecological
knowledge," said Timothy Byakola from Pesticide Action Network (PAN)

Activists also argue that the root causes of hunger have to be addressed
if policy makers want to solve the problem of hunger effectively.

"Malaria, like hunger, is a disease of poverty. When economic conditions
improve, it disappears, just as it did in the United States and Europe,"
said Food First's Mittal.

"The focus ought to be on the root causes of the problem, not the symptom.
The hungry don't need a technological quick fix. They need basic social
change." (END/2003)


Published on Monday, June 23, 2003 by the Sacramento Bee Massive Protest
Roils Downtown 20 arrested as 2,000 demonstrate against international ag




Police and protesters clash at GM summit By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
24 June 2003

Anti-globalisation protesters clashed with riot police for a second day
yesterday as an international ministerial meeting on genetically modified
foods began in the Californian capital, Sacramento.

A loose coalition of organic farmers, celebrity chefs - including Alice
Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley - world hunger campaigners and critics
of US trade policy have descended on Sacramento to accuse Washington of
putting pressure on other countries to accept GM crops, to the detriment
of biodiversity and small farmers worldwide.

On Sunday, up to 2,000 demonstrators rallied and symbolically laid down
organic seedbeds before riot police pushed them away from an Imax theatre
where delegates were gathering, and sporadic violence broke out. Police
said they made 15 arrests.

Yesterday, the numbers were expected to swell to mark the first full day
of the meeting, attended by ministers from more than 100 countries.
Protesters said police had already ripped up their seedbeds.

Police say they are determined not to let the event turn into a re-run of
the "Battle of Seattle", the founding moment of the anti-globalisation
movement in 1999 when tens of thousands of protesters shut down a World
Trade Organisation meeting.

Organisers of the Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science
and Technology say they are interested in sharing ideas and reducing world
hunger, not expanding the power of US agribusiness corporations.

However, the meeting coincides with the bitter dispute over the European
Union's refusal to admit GM imports on to its market. Some African
countries have also questioned whether GM crops will really feed their
starving populations.

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