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Voices From the South Debunk GE Myths

June 20, 2003

A new report, Voices From the South, systematically refutes a number of widely promoted myths
about genetically engineered (GE) food.
Released by
Pesticide Action Network North America and Food
First just days before a ministerial level
agricultural conference promoting GE foods gets underway
in Sacramento, California, the report counters
the claims of the biotech industry and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture that GE crops are a
solution to hunger in the Third World.

In the report, leading activists, scientists and
farmers from countries as diverse as Ethiopia,
India and Ecuador argue that the development of GE
crops has not focused on feeding people but
rather on securing market share for the world's
largest agrochemical/biotech companies. "Genetically
engineered crops are instruments of industrialized
agriculture," said Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC
Group in Uruguay, one of the authors. "They benefit
the richest people in the world, not the
hungriest. GE crops are designed to take the control of
food production away from local communities, by
creating greater dependence on agribusiness
corporations for seed and pesticides."

The report addresses six common myths spread by
the biotech industry about GE crops, with
responses by leading Third World analysts. "You can break
down these myths into three basic components:
Green washing, poor washing, and hope dashing," said
Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First, who
is from India. "Green washing suggests that
biotech will create a world free of pesticides; poor
washing would have us believe that we must accept
genetically engineered crops if we are to feed the
poor in the Third World; and hope dashing claims
there are no alternatives. But in this report,
this rhetoric is systematically dismantled by the
very people GE crops are supposed to benefit."

Research by Food First reveals that the industry
claim that there is not enough food to feed the
hungry is not based in fact. The world today
produces more food per inhabitant than ever before.
The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality
and lack of access. Too many people are too poor
to buy the food that is available (but often
poorly distributed) or lack the land and resources to
grow it themselves.

"What farmers in the developing world need are
policies that give farming communities control over
their own resources and build on local ecological
knowledge," writes Timothy Byakola, also an
author, who coordinates PAN East Africa, "not another
technological quick fix."

The authors note that there is already enough
food to feed the world one and a half times over,
and that genetically engineered crops have caused
economic and ecological problems where they have
been grown. The report argues that the poor and
hungry of the developing world need economic and
social policies that address the root causes of
hunger in poverty and inequality, not quick
technological fixes that largely benefit foreign
corporations.

The report highlights traditional farming methods
that involve sustainable use of land, water and
seeds in a system that guarantees food
sovereignty. Current global trade and economic policies
which force privatization, centralization and
commercialization are a threat to food sovereignty in
southern countries.

Voices from the South: The Third World Debunks
Corporate Myths on Genetically Engineered Crops is
published by Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) and
Food First/The Institute for Food and Development
Policy, as part of the work of both organizations
to bring the views of grassroots activists of the
global south to the political debate about the
risks and costs of GE food.

Voices from the South is available online at
 http://www.foodfirst.org/ .

Sources: Voices from the South, The Third World
Debunks Corporate Myths on Genetically Engineered
Crops, Ellen Hickey and Anuradha Mittal
(editors), June 2003, PANNA, 49 Powell St. #500 San
Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 981-1771,
 http://www.panna.org/ .

Contact: PANNA.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing
resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues
that don't always get coverage by the mainstream
media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network
North America, a non-profit and non-governmental
organization working to advance sustainable
alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

You can join our efforts! We gladly accept
donations for our work and all contributions are tax
deductible in the United States. Visit
 http://www.panna.org/donate.

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