-- Mary Hendrickson, Ph.D. Department of Rural Sociology University of Missouri Columbia, MO 65211 Tele: 573-882-7463 Fax: 573-882-1473
> London Independent July 25, 1998 > > > > By Louise Jury > > > > Aid agencies have united to condemn one of the biggest genetic > > engineering companies for using the Third World to justify its products. > > > > The company, Monsanto, has been seeking support from leading figures in > > Africa and Asia for its claims that biotechnology can "feed the world". > > > > An advertising campaign expected to start later this year says, "Let the > > harvest begin". But furious aid agencies have criticised the promotion > > as "misleading and manipulative". And African delegates to the United > > Nations' recent session on plant genetic resources asked for support in > > fighting the biotechnology companies. > > > > In a joint statement, the UN delegates said: "We ... strongly object > > that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used > > by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither > > safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us." > > > > But despite their opposition, the Global Business Access lobbying > > company in the United States has circulated a letter asking for > > signatories from the Third World to support Monsanto's claim that we all > > share the "same planet and the same needs". > > > > It said: "Many of our needs have an ally in biotechnology and the > > promising advances it offers for our future. We know that advances in > > biotechnology must be tested and safe, but they should not be unduly > > delayed ... Slowing its acceptance is a luxury our hungry world cannot > > afford." > > > > However, many aid workers believe that recent innovations in farming > > have promoted non-sustainable agriculture and done little to help the > > poorest countries. Andrew Simms, of Christian Aid, said that people went > > hungry because they did not have access to food, not because there was > > not enough of it. Ethiopia, for example, was a net exporter of food > > during its famine when the fighting prevented produce reaching those who > > needed it. > > > > "Monsanto's claims of a tomorrow without hunger thanks to their > > genetically engineered products are cruelly misleading," Mr Simms said. > > > > The aid agencies are particularly worried by Monsanto, because recent > > acquisitions have made it one of the world's most powerful agricultural > > biotechnology companies. It has a stake in every stage of the process, > > from patented genes to a global seed distribution network. Most > > significantly, Monsanto paid $4bn (#2.4bn) for Delta and Pine Land, the > > company which developed and patented "terminator technology", which > > genetically alters seeds so they will not germinate if replanted. > > > > Fears grew further last month when Monsanto announced a partnership with > > the Grameen Bank, a microcredit scheme founded in Bangladesh which > > provides credit to small businesses. Aid agencies fear farmers will be > > encouraged to buy grain and herbicides they cannot afford. > > > > Liz Hosken, of the Gaia Foundation which works to preserve biological > > and cultural diversity, said the poorest countries were being targeted > > as potentially profitable markets. > > > > A #1m advertising campaign launched in Britain last month was designed > > to persuade people that genetically modified crops were safe and a force > > for good in the Third World. > > > > Ms Hosken said: "The fear is if you say something often enough people > > think it is true." She said the major issue for developing nations was > > food security - having locally grown food locally available. But > > terminator technology stopped farmers collecting seeds for use in the > > future while encouraging them to buy in seeds and herbicides. > > > > Laura Kelly, of ActionAid, said Monsanto's efforts to convince the > > public that its technology would benefit farmers were "morally > > abhorrent". > > > > However, a spokesman for Monsanto said yesterday: "We are not saying > > that biotechnology is a panacea. It is one of the ways in which we can > > feed people and has a role to play." > > > > Although the company had bought the terminator technology, it had no > > plans to use it, he said: "The technology is fairly complicated. The > > idea that farmers in the Third World are about to get sterile seeds is > > not true." He added that the information campaign was planned with other > > biotechnology companies. > > >
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