Friday, April 16, 2010

The Global Food Security Act, S.384, unfairly benefits Big Biotech and must not, as it stands, be passed

Its name alone makes it seem like a wonderful and much-needed initiative: The Global Food Security Act. What could possibly be bad about working toward eradicating hunger on a world-wide basis? Well, here's what's bad about it: the Global Food Security Act, S.384, contains billions of dollars in giveaways--yes, that's billions--to Monsanto and other biotech giants who are in the business of producing, and then patenting, genetically modified crops, aka GMO's. (Background on the downsides of GMO crops may be found here; a brief summary of Monsanto's behavior as corporate "citizens" and its various legal entanglements is here.)

Here's what the excellent blog Food Freedom has to say (emphasis mine):

[SAN FRANCISCO and JOHANNESBURG] — Experts, scientists and advocates from around the world petitioned the U.S. Senate today in a concerted attempt to strip what they term a “stealth corporate giveaway” embedded in a foreign aid bill which is expected to hit the Senate floor soon. The “Global Food Security Act” (S.384), sponsored by Senators Casey (D-PA) and Lugar (R-IN), is intended to reform aid programs to focus on longer-term agricultural development, and restructure aid agencies to better respond to crises. While lauding the bill’s intentions, the petitioners object to a clause earmarking one agricultural technology (genetically modified – GM crops) for potentially billions of dollars in federal funding. $7.7 billion in U.S. funds are associated with the bill and no other farming methods or technologies are mentioned.

Monsanto has lobbied more than any other interest in support of this bill. The company is one of two or three dominant corporations in the increasingly concentrated biotechnology industry likely to benefit from the new research funding stream as well as from future profits from their patented products (both seeds and pesticides).

Today, scientists, development experts spanning a dozen countries, and 100+ groups representing anti-hunger, family farm, farmworker, consumer and sustainable agriculture delivered a letter urging the Senate to reject the “Global Food Security Act” until the bill is made technology-neutral. Their specific concern: language in the bill that would amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to read “Agricultural research carried out under this Act shall . . . include research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including gm technology.”

“The bill’s focus on genetically modified technology simply makes no sense,” stated Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Independent science tells us that genetically modified (GM) crops have neither increased yield nor reduced hunger in the world. The most credible and comprehensive assessments of agriculture to date say that if we want to end global poverty and hunger, we’ll need to focus on increasing the biodiversity and ecological resilience of small-scale farming systems.”

If you follow the Food Freedom link, and I hope you will, you'll find an impassioned letter to the Senate--the signatories of which go on for pages--concluding thus:

As scientists and anti-hunger, religious, family farming, sustainable agriculture, environmental and consumer groups, we believe farmers and communities working with scientists—not Congress—should identify what technologies are most appropriate locally and what research is needed to meet socially and environmentally sustainable development goals. We ask that the mandate for GM crop research be stricken, eliminating Section 202 of the Global Food Security Act. This will keep agricultural research funding under the Foreign Assistance Act appropriately focused on the priorities and local conditions of small-scale farmers.

Please oppose S. 384 until the bill is made technology-neutral.

I urge readers to contact their senators too--simply go here--and tell them to oppose the bill until it is made technology neutral. Thank you, as ever.

[Full disclosure: as most readers are aware, my husband Robert owns and operates a family farm that grows organic and hydroponic vegetables. He is proving that it can be done--and done sustainably, responsibly, and cost-effectively--while using technology to conserve water and tap alternative energy sources. As opposed to using technology to damage and destroy biodiversity and, ultimately, if the use of patented GMO seeds continues unabated, to control the world's food supply.]

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