Third World Countries Reject GM Technology

In a bid to overcome resistance in European markets (where the most lucrative financial opportunities are) to GM products, biotechnology companies have been emphasising the need for this technology to feed the world.  However, food supply problems throughout the world are generally accepted by aid agencies to have their roots primarily in general socio-economic problems (civil war, land rights etc) rather than technical limitations on agricultural production. It is common for hunger to be prevalent even in countries that have food surpluses.  The issue is frequently one of general social development rather than agricultural capacity.

The report below confirms that the developing countries themselves overwhelmingly reject the use of genetic engineering as the solution to their problems of poverty and hunger.

The fact that this rejection of GM technology is being led by Ethiopia sends a strong signal to governments around the world that this technology is not acceptable to the majority of people on the planet and that the interests of business should not be placed before the well being of global society and the environment as a whole.

It is ironic that the chief proponent of this technology is the United States, whose own farmers are facing bankruptcy because of over production and record low farm product prices.  The US government lifted administrative restraints on American agricultural production in 1996.

For this reason the US is desperate to find agricultural export markets for its agricultural production, a substantial proportion of which is GM. Global resistance to GM products could therefore throw US agriculture into an even deeper crisis - hence the aggressive approach of the US government on the issue of global trade in GM products.



Sunday Independent (London) Feb 28, 1999

Third World rejects GM

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent

The world's hungriest nations have resolved to oppose genetically modified foods. A senior Ethiopian government official last night told the Independent on Sunday they were "absolutely united" in resisting US plans to "decide what we eat".

Dr Tewolde Gebre Egziabher was speaking after last week's talks collapsed in Cartagena, Colombia, following the United States' accusation that the developing countries were endangering free trade. An international treaty to regulate trade in GM produce had been discussed by 132 nations.

The revolt will strike a chord in the West, with many associating the 1980 Ethiopia famines - which sparked Live Aid - with severe food shortages. Some biotechnology firms have consistently argued that GM crops' increased resistance to parasites and disease makes them suitable for the Third World.

Dr Egziabher, the senior Third World negotiator at the talks, said Third World resistance to the imposition of GM crops was increasing. Last week the government of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, the country's second largest soya-producing region, said it would ban the planting of GM beans produced by the US giant, Monsanto. And India's Supreme Court stopped trials of GM cotton.

The Third World's tough stance undermines the biotech companies' justification for GM crops - that they will help end world hunger; Dr Egziabher said that instead they could worsen the plight of the hungry.

The developing countries insisted the US and other food exporters ship GM foods separately from normal ones, and seek their "prior informed consent" before exporting. But the US and five other exporting countries - including Canada, Australia and Argentina - fear Third World countries would boycott GM produce.

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