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October 15, 2013
Farmers slam awards for GMO proponents

The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) deemed that the award is “a mere campaign ploy to promote GMOs,” noting that the foundation’s donors have commercial interests in GMO.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — An association of farmers and farm workers in Asia criticized the World Food Prize Foundation for awarding three proponents of genetically-modified organisms (GMO).

Laureates for this year’s World Food Prize, also regarded as the “Nobel Prize for food and agriculture,” are biotechonology scientists Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley.

The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) said the three have been executives of gene giant companies Monsanto and Syngenta.

According to APC, Fraley spent his entire career at Monsanto and led the company’s intense drive to sell genetically-engineered (GE) crops, and is now the company’s chief technology officer. Mary-Dell Chilton was Vice-President of Agricultural Biotechnology of Syngenta Biotechnology Inc., formerly Ciba-Geigy Corporation, while Van Montagu helped form the Plant Genetic Systems and the Crop Design, both biotech companies.

The APC deemed that the award is “a mere campaign ploy to promote GMOs,” noting that the foundation’s donors have commercial interests in GMO.

In its website, the World Food Prize Foundation describes itself as a private, nonprofit organization set up in 1986 with its headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. The APC, however, said the foundation is receiving money from agrochemical transnational corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Bayer and Cargill. It also received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, which funded the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in the Philippines, and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that funded the Golden Rice research in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Farmers, scientists and other groups are opposed to golden rice field trials in the Philippines. In August, farmers uprooted golden rice plants in Pili, Camarines Sur.

“In 2008, Monsanto made a $5 million pledge to the World Food Prize Foundation,” Rahmat Ajiguna, APC deputy secretary general, said.

Rahmat added that Syngenta and Monsanto belongs to the six multinational gene giants that control the current priorities and future direction of agriculture research worldwide, controlling 59.8 percent of commercial seeds and 76.1 percent of agrochemicals. Rahmat is also the secretary general of the Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement (Agra) based in Indonesia.

“These corporations are pushing the use of highly hazardous pesticides that cause human health and environmental devastation. These agrochemical TNCs are also guilty of violating the right to life, health, a safe working environment as well as the rights of indigenous peoples, women and children. They are destroying farmers’ and communities’ right to save seeds and biodiversity,” Rafael Mariano, chairman of Kilusang magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said. The KMP is a member-organization of the coalition.

Mariano said the IRRI maintains the strong U.S. control over the country’s farming technology. “The IRRI, together with these gene giants developed GMOs and imposed these on our agricultural production,” Mariano said.

“Thus, awarding executives from Syngenta and Monsanto further advertises a false solution to hunger, poverty, malnutrition and agricultural degradation. The truth is GMOs poison our lands, destroy our lives, and the environment,” Mariano said.

Mariano cited the research conducted by Masipag (Farmers and Scientist for the Development of Agriculture), which exposed the adverse effects of GM corn on farmers and shows “evidence of failure” of what was supposed to have given farmers increased yields and better income.

Masipag’s book titled “Socio-economic Impact of Genetically Modified Corn in the Philippines” also exposes how agrochemical TNCs are raking in huge profits from GM seeds and chemical inputs, Mariano said.

Rahmat noted that the winners were announced on June 19 in which U.S. State Department Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said “it’s hard to imagine a similar event taking place in Europe, where government authorities have refused to approve the planting or importation of some of these GMO crops.”

“The message of Secretary Kerry is very clear: the US government is supporting the development and commercialization of GMOs. Monsanto, based in the U.S., controls 90 percent of the U.S. soybean crop production and 80 percent of corn and cotton crops. Monsanto serves the US’ interests in controlling seeds, farms and agriculture worldwide. So, who will benefit from awarding Syngenta and Monsanto executives?” said Rahmat. (http://bulatlat.com)

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